"All of us seek an Aotearoa in which all young people and their communities are free to flourish, and in turn able to make their own contributions to sustainability, justice, knowledge, and creative expression." Hannah Lees, Cohort 2013 Alumna, working as a lecturer at AUT's Colab this semester and serving with Ako Mātātupu's Kairapu Team, reflects on the annual Ako Mātātupu Alumni-led retreat.
We are all feeling so topped up after the annual Ako Mātātupu retreat with our community of Kairapu: a group of flagship programme alumni and aligned partners who come together to support and challenge each other in our work towards our vision and with and for young people in Aotearoa.
Held at the Bella Rakha Retreat Centre in Oratia, our curiosity and joy around our work was re-activated by guest speakers Niki Harré (University of Auckland) and Will Flavell (Rutherford College). This year's theme was sustainability. From the literal to the lateral, how can we ensure that our planet, people, and selves are nourished and able to play the long game? With our guest speakers we respectively re-learned the art of keeping what we value in play when it comes to sticky problems like inequality and climate change, and of the tāonga of te reo Māori and the worlding power of language. Programme Alumni also led workshops on topics ranging from teacher wellbeing to digital revolutions in mathematics education to how to keep our global connections alive and fruitful.
As Ako Mātātupu we have always unabashedly stood for equity and for serving the limitless potential of young people. Next month our fifth cohort will graduate and join the Kairapu network, and our seventh cohort will enter the flagship programme experience. I can't help but liken our potential as alumni to our name, Ako Mātātupu: we are the first shoots of a network of change-makers guided by reciprocal teaching and learning. This edifying and energising retreat experience has shown me that we can only grow in our collaboration, resolve, and impact from here.
Some of us are classroom teachers, some are department leaders, some are whakairo masters, some are science communicators, some are kapa haka leaders, some are lecturers, some are not-for-profit strategists, some are designers, some are sportspeople, some are writers, some are mentors, some are researchers, some are policy analysts, some are parents, some are artists; many are overlapping combinations of these roles, and many more roles will emerge! Some are consolidating their commitment to teaching, learning, and leading in schools while others are diversifying their inputs, involvements, and innovations.
All of us seek an Aotearoa in which all young people and their communities are free to flourish, and in turn able to make their own contributions to sustainability, justice, knowledge, and creative expression.
No one should have to leave behind parts of who they are in order to get ahead. No one should experience a curriculum that prioritises knowledge systems from the other side of the world above the ways of knowing and being that were here first and that work best here in these islands. No one should have to burn out via an arbitrary system of assessments. No one should experience bullying or harassment. No one should have their sparkling curiosity swapped out for a dusty model of job market preparation. No one should have to suffer under conscious or unconscious racism, informal ghettoisation, or income and wealth inequality. No one should be denied knowledge of their right to self-determination, and the ways that that right has been systemically trampled on. No one deserves to learn about that history of oppression without hope that self-determination is possible.
Through events like the annual retreat, Kairapu are learning more and tending to the fire of that hope: fighting as or alongside tangata whenua for the right to lead the way when it comes to land and livelihood.
Photo credit: Hannah Lees, Sophie Jones