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Tuakana Teina Mentorship Programme

Mentorship Programme

Tuakana Teina Mentorship Programme

Launching earlier this year at UCOL  in Whanganui, the Tuakana Teina mentorship programme has taken off and proven to be a huge success among ākonga Māori (Māori learners).

The mentorship programme, which is aimed at ensuring ākonga success, connects more experienced ākonga Māori and graduates (Tuakana) with less experienced ākonga Māori (Teina) for academic and personal support.

UCOL Whanganui currently has two Tuakana who mentor ākonga Māori through their learner journey - recent carpentry graduate, Daniel Guilford (Ngāti Maniapoto), and current Diploma of Business (Accounting) ākonga, Atamai Cribb (Ngā Paerangi).

Both Tuakana are employed at UCOL for 10 hours a week, with Daniel based at Hattrick Street alongside the construction and automotive engineering ākonga, and Atamai supporting the wider Whanganui campus.

Daniel says that the idea of the Tuakana Teina is to bridge the gap between the lecturer and ākonga.

"Sometimes when ākonga struggle with their coursework or have personal issues that are impacting their studies, they don't always feel comfortable talking to their lecturer about it. We help to bridge that communication gap.

"I was a student not that long ago, so I understand what it's like for them, but now I'm working I can also see where the lecturer is coming from, too. I went through similar difficulties when I was studying, so I'm able to build that trust with ākonga and work with them and their lecturer to get through that raru (challenges)."

Being able to feel comfortable sharing that raru, particularly in the Māori kaupapa space, is incredibly important, says Atamai.

"We're essentially helping to build up their self-confidence and walk alongside them. It makes such a huge difference knowing someone has your back, that you're not alone, and that there is support there if you need it.

Guided by the Raukura team (Māori and Pasifika pastoral care) at the Whanganui campus, Tuakana are well-supported through their mentorship, says Atamai.

"If there are any challenges our learners are struggling with that we're not equipped for, whether it be around enrolments, financial hardship, or personal matters, the Raukura team are there and they've been a great help."

Drawing from personal experience, Atamai says she recognises the need for mentors who understand kaupapa Māori.

"I first started studying when I had just left school and then came back to studying when I was in my 20s. Looking back, I think that I could have benefitted from connecting with somebody who was Māori and who could actually understand the Māori values and foundations I live my life by.

"It seems that other ākonga feel the same, too. I've found that because I'm Māori and a learner, I can connect at more of a grassroots level with ākonga. They feel like they can be a bit more vulnerable with me than they could with their tutor or lecturer."

Daniel and Atamai both agree that they are doing incredibly rewarding mahi, with Atamai emphasising that she's loved every minute of it. Although, Daniel points out, it's not always smooth sailing for ākonga.

"Over the past few months, I've mentored some ākonga who were thinking about giving up on their studies. They didn't feel comfortable talking to their lecturer about the pressure they were under, so I came in to liaise between them and work side-by-side with the ākonga."

Atamai adds: "I've also spoken to ākonga in similar situations who were ready to throw in the towel. I listen first and let them talk, that in itself can be a big load off. Then I'll reassure them that I'm there to help them in any way I can."

After six months on the job, Daniel says ākonga feel more comfortable opening up.

"We've built up that bond throughout the year and gotten to know each other - we have breaks together and chat about what happened at the weekend. We've built those relationships and now we're seeing results. It's so cool to see ākonga placing that trust in us."

The programme is now receiving amazing feedback around campus, says Daniel.

"We've had so much great feedback from our lecturers and ākonga. I had some ākonga personally thank me and say that without my help, they wouldn't have been able to succeed in their studies."

For ākonga who may be struggling and need someone to talk to, Atamai and Daniel encourage them to reach out.

"We're here if ākonga Māori want to talk and we're easy to spot, too, just look out for our branded hoodies and high-vis! You'll see us around campus or at orientation and in class talks. Please come up and say hi, we'd love to help you any way we can," says Atamai.

Local iwi, secondary college partners, and industry partners including Te Whatu Ora, were involved in the building and designing of The Tuakana Teina programme.

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