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Lifting ākonga and whānau wellbeing through Mau Rākau

Lifting ākonga and whānau wellbeing through Mau Rākau

13 October 2023
A Mau Rākau programme in Palmerston North

A Mau Rākau programme has had a positive impact on students in Palmerston North through a collaborative approach and te ao Māori practises promoting fitness, confidence, and well-being. 

Whakarongo School recognised the need to boost fitness levels and foster confidence in their ākonga (students) to support their holistic development.  

With enthusiastic support from the school's staff and community members, and a helping hand from the Tū Manawa fund through Sport Manawatū, they introduced a Mau Rākau programme called Te Rākau a Tū a Rongo. Mau Rākau is a traditional form of Māori martial arts, using a long-staffed wooden stick. 

Te Rākau a Tū a Rongo embodies te ao Māori ancestral practices, tīkanga (customs), values, and protocols to cultivate active play, enhance fitness, and encourage a healthier lifestyle among ākonga. 

Many ākonga at Whakarongo School were experiencing barriers to pursuing fitness goals, such as time constraints, financial limitations and family commitments. Te Rākau a Tū a Rongo aimed to help ākonga overcome these hurdles while empowering them to thrive.  

The programme attracted 65 ākonga, aged 8 to 13 years old, of many ethnicities and cultures – with the school confident that anyone, regardless of culture, would benefit from the kaupapa.  

The motivation and dedication of the ākonga was key to the programme’s success. Their regular participation and genuine interest created an atmosphere of excitement and whanaungatanga. The kaupapa introduced fun and creative games into the sessions, making learning an enjoyable experience for everyone. 

Just as important were the positive relationships developed between the ākonga and their Mau Rākau tutor, Karanama Peita. Under his leadership students felt empowered to explore their potential with confidence. The supportive environment encouraged ākonga to actively participate, take on challenges, and develop newfound skills. 

 “It was incredible to see all our tamariki thriving in a te ao Māori kaupapa! It was a prime example of what works well for Māori, works well for all!" 

Awhina Watson-Pitcher, Mātauranga Māori Kaiwhakahaere o te Kura 

The kaupapa received overwhelming support from participants’ whānau, who all attended the whakaari (showcase) event in which ākonga showcased their achievements through the programme. 

“It was so wonderful to watch, and the kōrero that brought us parents in on the learning journey was awesome – I learned so much,” said a parent of one of the students.   

This partnership between the school and whānau created a better sense of community and reinforced the importance of cultural heritage and physical well-being. 

Kaiako (teachers) and staff members embraced the principles of the kaupapa, incorporating active play games into their classrooms, and the Mau Rākau activities were integrated into the school's broader curriculum and practices. This not only added to improved fitness levels among all students but also to a school-wide culture of physical activity and well-being. 

Te Rākau a Tū a Rongo highlighted the power that immersion in te ao Māori has to boost confidence and promote fitness and wellbeing among ākonga. It provided a journey of self-discovery, empowerment, and community support that left a positive mark on all involved.  

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