Te Mana Ākonga , the National Māori Tertiary Students' Association Tumuaki Takirua, Mamaeroa Merito (Ngāti Pikiao, Ngāti Whakaue, Ngāti Awa), and Nohorua Parata (Ngāti Toa Rangatira, Ngāti Ruanui, Ngāti Kahungunu, Rongowhakaata), and TMĀ Pou Hauora and project lead, Zaine Ākuhata-Huntington (Ngāti Tūwharetoa, Ngāi Tūhoe, Ngāi Te Rangi, Ngāti Kahungunu ki Te Wairoa), discuss the recent TMĀ report detailing the educational and well-being impacts of the Covid-19 lockdown on Māori University students.

Te Mana Ākonga is currently comprised of rōpū from all eight Universities and four Polytechnics. We are focused on improving experiences for tauira Māori in tertiary education, building collaborative networks between our Universities and institutions, and advocating on behalf of tauira Māori at a local and national level.

In June 2020, Te Mana Ākonga released our report on the Impacts of the Covid-19 Lockdown on Māori University Students. Informing the report, was a survey which was rolled out nationally to tauira Māori at each of the eight Universities of Aotearoa, something Te Mana Ākonga believes is a first for Māori in tertiary education.

The survey and report were developed by tauira Māori organisations and aimed to explore the experiences and impacts that tauira Māori enrolled in Universities in Aotearoa have faced, and continue to face, during and post-Covid-19 lockdown. Led out of the tauira Māori organisations, the report also provides valuable information for tauira Māori, to be empowered, to support and advocate for equity as agents of change.

Our report identified a number of impacts that the lockdown had on tauira, however, Te Mana Ākonga believe that this is just the tip of the iceberg and there are many more challenges that tauira Māori face every day.

Financial struggles were a key theme with nearly half of those surveyed reporting increased financial stress. One-fifth of tauira reported having dependents who relied on them financially, and more than a third agreed that lockdown had made it more difficult to afford essential bills.

Online learning also proved challenging. A quarter of students did not have access to strong, reliable Wi-Fi or internet for online learning. Over half of students reported their experience of online learning to be negative and nearly three-quarters of students reported the overall impact on their education had been negative.

The lockdown also took its toll emotionally, and on the mental health of tauira. Over half of students reported feeling more sad than before lockdown, more than three-quarters felt more anxious, and the majority (84%) reported feeling worried about their academic progress. Over half indicated they did not feel valued as a tauira by their institution.

The report includes strong recommendations on how the government and Universities can better support and enable tauira Māori both post-Covid and in the future, with clear expectations that students are involved in all aspects of action.

In finding out more about the diverse experiences tauira Māori have had, we hope to use the information contained in the report to make strong recommendations to tertiary institutions, policy makers and the New Zealand government on how to respond appropriately to meet the current and future needs University tauira Māori in a post-Covid-19 world.

It has been an eye-opening experience working collaboratively with our tauira from across the University sector, collecting and reporting back on key themes and issues that affect them. This research has opened the door for greater exploration of how inequities in education and health are being addressed, or not, for our tauira at all levels.

Te Mana Ākonga is grateful to the tauira for sharing their stories. Their strength and endurance during these times is inspiring and we hope through our report we have been able to capture a snapshot of this. We know our tauira deserve better and we hope our wero to government and Universities are taken up.