Northland father studies connections between education and the Māori lunar calendar

By Jessica Tyson

Northland student and father Tamati Rakena is set to further his passion for mātauranga Māori after winning a $24,000 scholarship to study towards a Master of Education degree at the University of Auckland.

Rakena, of Te Rarawa and Ngāti Hine, was one of 14 selected as a recipient of the Kupe Leadership Scholarship.

“I feel privileged to be able to continue studying about something that I’m passionate about, which is education...just [being] given the opportunity to be able to represent the Faculty of Education and obviously represent my family, hapū.” 

Tamati Rakena being awarded the scholarship. Source: University of Auckland

The connection between education and the maramataka

As part of his studies, Rakena is researching the connection between education and the maramataka, or Māori lunar calendar.

He thinks the maramataka should become a part of the curriculum, in mainstream schools and kura kaupapa Māori.

“It helps us to identify the best days for doing our assessments.  It also can highlight high energy days, so that might be, on those high energy days, we might be out doing sports.”

His research looks at how maramataka has an effect on the way students feel and their attitudes towards learning.

“There are also days that are referred to Huna where we just need to rest and it’s highly suggested that we don’t give our tamariki too much mahi," he says.

"Hopefully, I’m able to implement or plant the seed of the importance that the maramataka has had on Māori culture for centuries and the ongoing effects that it could have."

Tamati Rakena was one of 14 to receive the scholarship. Source: University of Auckland

Overcoming obstacles

Meanwhile, Rakena’s success hasn’t come easy.  One of this biggest challenges is his living situation and having to travel from Mitimiti to Whangārei to get to university.

“We live in an isolated community where we constantly experience power cuts, no wifi, and the travel to my campus in Whangārei is three hours plus a ferry ride,” says Rakena.

“Once or twice a month I have to attend workshops and wānanga in Tāmaki which adds extra pressure to travel and whānau commitments.”

In Mitimiti, Rakena, along with his partner and 18-month-old son, lives in a cabin which is six by four metres in size.

“We live in a tiny cabin with no power and use a bowl of water for washing at times.”

The cabin is located close to the ocean so Rakena says there are benefits of living there, including the view- and his son loves the adventure.

“Despite having limited space it’s a happy environment because it’s where we’re bringing up our son.  Over there is the bush, you can see the sea, birds, pigs, all sorts of animals.”

Rakena also goes fishing regularly, another of his passions.

To further support the 14 scholarship recipients in their leadership work, they have each been paired with a mentor hand-picked to offer guidance, support, and to challenge them throughout the programme.

Rakena will be mentored by Far North District Council chief executive Shaun Clarke, ONZM.