The 'weather bomb' that hit Auckland last weekend couldn’t stop the Ako Mātātupu participant and alumni community’s collaboration! 30 alumni of our flagship Programme organised and attended a Strategy and Re-Connection event, spending two days exploring how to best work together to maximise our impact in addressing the complex, systemic causes of educational inequality.
The vision of Ako Mātātupu is that every young person in Aotearoa can reach their full potential, on their own terms; but currently, we live in a country where the life expectancy difference between a person living in Remuera and a person living in Mangere is 17 years. The systemic inequality in New Zealand is an emergent, complex, unpredictable beast. It isn’t something that’s easily and immediately solvable. Although Teach First NZ: Ako Mātātupu is best known for working to address this inequity through the flagship two-year Teaching and Education Leadership Programme, we are under no illusion that this is something that can be achieved by individual participants in two years. The Programme is just the beginning of the work required to meet this huge vision, the first step in building a movement of people leading efforts to tackle educational inequality. United by their shared experience and knowledge of the challenges that schools and wider communities face, and the expertise and commitment to address the issues, the alumni network is a dynamic force for social change.
Strong leadership is crucial for improving outcomes for our rangatahi, and supporting every young person to flourish. This may take a number of forms: it may be achieved as teachers, school leaders, or in other fields where participants and alumni can be a part of influencing change. Of those who have completed our programme, 85% have continued to teach, and 25% are now in leadership roles within their schools. Of those who have moved on from teaching, many are energetically advocating for change through their roles in education policy, or completing further study.
An important lesson that many participants learn whilst on the programme is that community success is far more powerful than individual success – a crude translation of the whakatauki: “Ehara taku toa I te toa takitahi. Engari, te toa takitini” (my strength is not the strength of one; it is the strength of many.) This is totally embodied by the ethos of the alumni network.
As Rebecca McGrath (Head of English at Kelston Girls College, alumna of Cohort 2013) put it: “In a time when there is a multiplicity of voices, all with different political and personal perspectives, spending time with other like-minded and passionate educators who believe first and foremost in equity is inspirational." Alumni activity isn’t an extra workload, it’s about sharing what is working and how we can galvanise together toward educational transformation. It’s putting young people at the centre of all we do, whether that be in a classroom, in the community, in government, or on stage, sportsfield, boardroom or laboratory.
As Teach First NZ: Ako Mātātupu grows, the alumni network recognises that this is a crucial time to mobilise. It’s exciting to see the ownership taken by a group of passionate individuals who are committed to equity and supporting our rangatahi, and who aren’t afraid to step up and embrace their role to play in this movement. We’re grateful for everyone who supports them in their important work.
Image credit: Hannah Lees & Sophie Jones