Weekly "zui" serve as 'safe space' for trades students

By Mare Haimona-Riki

Students take advantage of Wednesday Wānanga - Photo / Te Puna Wānaka Facebook 

"Wednesday Wānanga" initially started as a way to learn mātauranga Māori during the lockdown, has now turned into a safe space for students to address mental health issues.  The idea was prompted by students at Ara Institute following the sudden passing of one of their students.

"We just let them talk about it and a lot of our pastoral care team that were in the zoom meetings were able to check in with them.

Some of the conversations went offline," says engagement team member, Michelle Mahanga. 

For Māori and Pasifika students at Ara Institute of Canterbury, specifically under the trades and construction programme the zoom meetings have been a source of positivity and cultural enlightenment.

Prior to lockdown, Michelle and her husband were tasked to teach “He Toki ki te Rika Ako” – a haka written by te reo Māori advocate and academic, Hana O’Regan. Mahanga says that the haka would serve as a type ‘vehicle’ to reclaim self-identity for her students. 

"We jumped at the chance to be able to do that for our tauira, knowing full well that it's not about the haka.

It's about being connected, even in zoom for a common cause, getting up close and personal with the reo and our culture," says Mahanga.

Mahanga concludes, “The Wednesday Wānanga sessions have become a potent way to give life to Ara’s three values of Hono, Hihiri and Aroha."