Tuākana: Students helping other students

Students face challenges every day, and not all those challenges are academic, that’s why Wintec has a Tuākana programme to support our ākonga (students) on a holistic level.

Tuākana literally translates to big brother/big sister. Our Tuākana provide non-academic support/mentoring in small flexible whānau groups for new ākonga navigating their first year of study. 

Non-academic support focuses on whanaungatanga, establishing a sense of belonging and fostering a safe space for ākonga to come together, learn together, share together, and celebrate together.  

Tuākana: Bottom left - Luke Caddy, top left - Raukawa Newton, top right - Liam McNally, bottom right - Sarah Taputu

Tuākana are experienced learners who understand the struggles and rewards of tertiary study and are committed to helping ākonga succeed. Tuākana are typically in their second year or above of study and have been recommended by their programme Tutors as having the attributes and characteristics needed to assist new ākonga. 

We caught up with some of the new Tuākana this year to see why they wanted to get involved in the programme.

Liam McNally, second year physiotherapy student at our Rotokauri campus, said he found Tuākana sessions useful during his first year at Wintec so when he was asked to be a Tuākana at the beginning of his second year he said yes.

“The Tuākana in my first year did such a good job at helping me get through the year and provided me with heaps of support. I wanted to return the favour for the future levels and try to help them out just as my Tuākana did for me.

“To me Tuākana means having a group of people who come together to have discussions about anything. I enjoy trying to help my fellow students to the best of my ability whether it be with assignments, content, concerns with approaching assignments/content etc, or even just having a chat about our days. I hope to be an approachable figure that Teina feel like they could come ask me for help or have some banter with me.”

McNally has always been interested in physiotherapy as he said he was always going to see the physio when he was at school. He plays a lot of sport will watch and following anything from NBA basketball to NRL Warriors (with everything in between). 

“If I’m not watching or participating in sport, I’m usually doing some sort of hike, day walk, beach or snow trip. Fun fact: I coach Special Olympics football,” McNally said.

Third year physiotherapy student Luke Caddy has also signed up to be a Tuākana this year.

“I first heard about the Tuākana program from two of our Tuākana students who were introduced to us on our first day at Wintec.
 
“I wanted to be a Tuākana because I think the idea of students learning from each other has a lot of benefits. I personally feel it is important to have a good connection with like-minded students that are all on the same journey as you and are working towards a common goal. 

“Here at Wintec Physiotherapy, we are lucky enough to have smaller class sizes, making it possible to develop a good relationship with everyone in all years above or below. The Tuākana Teina program was a way of making this kind of collaborative learning possible which attracted me to jump on board. It was also a great opportunity to take on extra responsibility for self-development going forwards.”
 
Caddy said as a Tuākana, he looked to support students in lots of different aspects of their study life. 

“This may be through facilitating group study sessions, helping with study techniques, answering questions, giving general advice, linking to support services where needed, as well as just chatting and sharing experiences. Although course content is important, we recognise that there are a lot of different aspects of the student life that are all just as important. 

“For me, Tuākana is about helping students get the most out of their studies and become the best they can be, as well as having an enjoyable experience along the way. Having already been through similar experiences in my earlier years, I am able to give unique insights and advice from a student perspective which will hopefully give our Teina an easier time on their journey.”
 
Caddy is originally from Whitianga but moved to Hamilton after his last year of school to start studying at Wintec. He, like Mcnally, is really into sports, particularly rugby, basketball, and squash. 

“Currently, alongside other physiotherapy students, I am working with Melville Rugby Club, helping out with strapping and side-line management for their various teams. I have a keen interest in all areas of physiotherapy, but particularly those with musculoskeletal and sports injuries,” he said.

Raukawa Newton, our Māori Vice President under Student Association of Wintec, heard about the Tuākana programme through one of her tutors.

“[My tutor] recognised the efforts I made to support my peers. I believe one of the other factors to approaching me about going for the Tuākana role was being strongly connected to Te ao Māori me ōna tikanga. 

“Previously being a student myself, I often longed for group environments that provided space for wānanga and whakawhanaungatanga. I also believe that pastoral care is so vital when it comes to thriving in the academic space and Tuākana do just that.”

Newton said the Tuākana programme meant a great deal to her, and her vision was to see this programme expanded to help more students.

Newton is a descendant of Waikato, Ngapuhi and Taranaki, she highly values whānau. 

“I am also a mother to a seven-year-old boy who's already gained a lot of curiosity around the roles I play at Wintec,” she said.

Sarah Taputu, a proud Māori and Pacifica wāhine, and second year Bachelor of Midwifery student is also a new Tuākana this year.

“Our cohort was fortunate to have two Tuākana support us for a time and I enjoyed the pastoral and 'older sibling' support that they provided.”

Taputu said she wanted to offer support to the first-year students and be there to answer any questions about what the degree/placement/study truly involved as someone in the same degree. 

“I also want to help more people get to the finish line and to be more knowledgeable, confident, and competent midwives.”

Taputu said being a Tuākana technically involved regular catch-ups and an open line of communication where the Tuākana and Teina could learn from and support each other to get to the finish line. 

“To me, it means offering support that only another student can give with real life experience,” she said.

Taputu enjoys drinking kawhe and spending quality time with her people. 

“I am grateful for the opportunity to study and go home to my little community and work as a Lead Maternity Carer. Fun fact: I was home-schooled my entire life, so Wintec was my first public education experience when I was 23 and the transition was super smooth,” she said.

Tuākana are employed as casual Wintec staff on a yearly contract and trained by our experienced Academic Learning Advisors-Māori, Tania Oxenham and Marion Tahana. The training explores the philosophy and practice of being a Tuākana, which is a concept derived from Te Ao Māori, a Māori worldview.

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