Iwi around the country are stamping their mark on the business world and providing employment opportunities, health, education, social services and cultural connections. Carmen Hall spent a week with Ngāi Te Rangi and got a rare insight into the iwi's operations. This is part four in the series.
Iwi are sending their kaimahi (staff) into schools to combat rising absenteeism and engage with Māori who have ''little to no trust in their local education services''.
One iwi boss says schools are experiencing a ''pedagogical crisis" and are ''screaming out for help''.
The Government is pumping $40 million into a regional response fund over the next four years to improve student attendance at school and kura. This included $1.6m in the Bay of Plenty from the Whānau Engagement Fund that had been allocated to 24 iwi.
Education Minister Chris Hipkins said attendance rates had not been good for a long time.
It was a complex issue and working on it was complicated.
Some of the money would be used to create pathways for disengaged youth alongside iwi, schools, councils, community groups and providers.
Ngāi Te Rangi, Te Ohu Mātauranga Reo manager Arohanoa Mathews said the iwi was part of the whānau engagement pilot programme.
The rūnanga had appointed more kaimahi to provide services in order to meet the need for programmes like Hautū Waka (whānau engagement) in the schools and community.
Mathews said it was supporting rangatahi who were uri (descendants) of Ngāi Te Rangi in Years 6 to 8.
''Kaimahi who are bilingual go into the schools and work with students and whānau to create goals around their educational, whānau and aspirational goals. We also offer opportunities for them to learn more about their culture and iwi as we are Ngāi Te Rangi-centric.''
Anecdotal evidence showed the project to date, which involves 25 students from schools and colleges across Tauranga Moana - including Katikati and Pāpāmoa - was proving successful.
There was now a waiting list.
''We are still gathering information and reports but yesterday one of the students said his attendance has gone from 60 to 70 per cent in the short time we have been working with him. Changes in students' behaviour and attitudes towards their goal-setting have been evident.'
''Schools are screaming out for help.''
The programme was now in its second phase and would seek feedback and input from teachers and whānau.
''We are really excited and have had a lot of principals and teachers reach out about the programme. This model could be utilised in every school.
''At the end of the day, we are a vehicle for our whānau, hapū and uri to empower themselves.''
Mount Maunganui College deputy principal Brendon-Ray Horlock said it felt its students could benefit from mentoring and strengthened connections to their whakapapa.
''The relationships and the learning the students build with their mentors help to provide the students with culturally responsive experiences that complement and build on their experiences here at school.''
Ngāi Te Rangi chief executive Paora Stanley said teachers did a great job but if the classrooms were too large or children were going to school hungry, they weren't going to learn.
''So there's a whole bunch of other issues at play.''
Pedagogy was key in education.
''Essentially it's the fundamental principles of teaching and there is a pedagogical crisis in New Zealand education. Kids not going to school and being under-educated are the direct result of that.''
He said the Whānau Engagement programme was just one initiative they were involved in to help future generations.
Former head of the Oranga Tamariki Ministerial Advisory Board, Matthew Tukaki, said when children left school, stopped going or got excluded they were lost.
''I think Ngāi Te Rangi, iwi and other organisations that go into these schools are doing two really positive things. They are helping to alleviate the challenge schools have been trying to address themselves.
''As the old saying goes, 'it takes a village to raise a child'.''
He said they could also identify pathways for those who did not want to be in school.
''Not everyone wants to be a scientist or go on to university. It's about finding a future vocation they are interested in.''
Māori Education Associate Minister Kelvin Davis said there had been a huge increase in iwi-led initiatives since he was a principal.
Māori had not been doing as well in a system that wasn't developed for them.
''Iwi bring so much to the table. They understand what their tamariki respond to, what is relevant for their young people and a cultural skillset.''
Iwi also had a very important role to play in the new history curriculum, where communities would be able to work with iwi and hapū on their own local content.
Former Tauranga principal and Associate Education Minister Jan Tinetti said she was pleased to see more iwi-led initiatives in the education sector.
''Iwi-led initiatives are really important – ensuring initiatives that are targeted at Māori have Māori involved in the design, rollout and implementation is essential to the success of the initiative.''
Ministry of Education Te Tai Whenua, hautū Jocelyn Mikaere, said 24 Bay of Plenty iwi had received $1.6m through the Whānau Engagement Fund.
The aim of the fund was to re-engage ākonga Māori who had become disconnected from their education provider back into education pathways.
Evidence gathered prior to Covid reinforced that ''many Māori learners and their whānau continue to experience inequitable education outcomes and as a result had little to no trust in their local education services''.
''Compounding this issue, local education services reported limited capability and confidence to engage Māori whānau and communities, ie they consistently do not have the right knowledge and skills to connect [or reconnect] with Māori learners and whānau''.
In findings from an education survey, Māori and Pacific children showed the greatest declines in regular attendance since 2015, of 12.3 and 15.8 per cent respectively, versus 10 per cent for Pākehā and 7.7 per cent for Asian students.
In term 2 of 2021, only 44.4 per cent of Māori and 44.8 per cent of Pacific students attended school regularly.