Enhancing mana through kaitiakitanga for children’s wellbeing in early childhood education

HomeEarly childhood education resourcesCulturally responsive pedagogy in early childhood educationEnhancing mana through kaitiakitanga for children’s wellbeing in early childhood education

Enhancing mana through kaitiakitanga for children’s wellbeing in early childhood education

HomeEarly childhood education resourcesCulturally responsive pedagogy in early childhood educationEnhancing mana through kaitiakitanga for children’s wellbeing in early childhood education

In this webinar, Dr Lesley Rameka (University of Waikato) describes the outcomes of a Teaching and Learning Research Initiative (TLRI) project focused on the promotion of kaitiakitanga in early childhood centres for enhancing the mana of tamariki, with positive effects on their wellbeing. The project explored traditional perspectives on mana and kaitiakitanga, as well as ways in which tamariki might accrue and attain mana through being kaitiaki of themselves, others, and their environment in early childhood settings.

The key insights from the webinar include:

The implementation of a Māori perspective on wellbeing is not only important for tamariki Māori but has significance for all tamariki. Improving the wellbeing of children in New Zealand is an important issue, with New Zealand ranking 35th out of 41 EU and OECD countries for child wellbeing outcomes[1]. While there are many different perspectives and definitions of wellbeing, it is fundamentally about the ability to function and live well. An important concept describing wellbeing for Māori is hauora. Hau- refers to vitality, and the vital essence of a person, while -ora refers to living, being alive, being well, and being safe. Hauora includes te tinana (bodily wellbeing), te hinengaro (mental wellbeing), wairua (spiritual wellbeing), and whānau or social wellbeing.

The protection and enhancement of mana is important to notions of hauora. Te Whāriki describes mana as the power of being, and states that it must be upheld and enhanced. However, mana has complex and multiple meanings, including status and prestige, power, control, charisma, and value. It is a foundational aspect of the Māori worldview and seen as key to every aspect of life, including people, places, and things. Mana is also about knowledge, respect, humility, and contribution, and has a spiritual dimension. It is inherently linked to ideas around whakapapa, ancestors, and iwi, as well as ngā atua (Māori gods). For kaiako, learning about the deeper meaning of mana comes over time, with commitment and respect. It is important to have more than a superficial understanding of the concept of mana to effectively implement opportunities for enhancing it.

Kaitiakitanga supports the enhancement of mana. Kaitiakitanga is about roles and responsibilities. It refers to the ability to contribute, give, nurture, and care for the collective as well as the places and things associated with it. It is about the roles that people can take to contribute, make change, and take responsibility in their worlds. The root of the word kaitiakitanga, -tiaki-, means to nurture, to care, to conserve, and to save. Kai- refers to the people or agents that perform the verb, and -tanga refers to the practice of something – in this case, tiaki. Sometimes kaitiakitanga is used in reference to sustainability and looking after the environment, and it can also be about caring for and conserving te reo, tikanga Māori, and other people.

The project Te Whakapūmautia te mana: Enhancing mana through kaitiakitanga, aimed to articulate the concepts of mana and kaitiakitanga in an early childhood context and to explore their importance to hauora. Interviews with kaumatua revealed that the values of kaitiakitanga were imbued and passed on through practices such as growing crops and sharing them across the whole community, rotating the position of the garden to care for Papatūānuku, and kaumatua custodianship of te reo, tikanga, and the marae. Learning about practices for kaitiakitanga was experiential and occured through people’s physical participation in community activities related to kaitiakitanga.

Tamariki are motivated to contribute, care, and nurture. The research identified many examples of tamariki in early childhood settings who were concerned about others, the garden, or the land. For example, one child showed concern about the dangers of playground equipment for babies. Kaiako could see that children’s mana was being enhanced when they guided each other, shared knowledge with each other, or supported each other to use or understand language or tikanga. When kaiako looked at their practice through a lens that recognised mana and kaitiakitanga, they were able to support and enhance these concepts in positive ways. Kaiako also recognised mana in children’s ancestry and connections to iwi. Tamariki were seen to carry mana accrued from their tribal background and whakapapa, as well as from tupuna and ancestors. For example, a child might be seen to be like her grandmother, and assume mana from this inheritance.

A rongo framework can be used to support tamariki to learn to be kaitiaki. There are four aspects of the rongo framework that support kaiako to develop and enhance mana and kaitiakitanga.

Te rongo tinana refers to the way that children need to be able to physically engage in and experience their worlds (environment, te reo, whānau).

Te rongo hinengaro refers to the way that children need to develop understanding and knowledge about their worlds, including the physical world, social world, and spiritual world, as well as knowledge of tribal narratives.

Te rongo ngākau refers to the way that children need to be able to develop an emotional connection or affinity, as well as a strong sense of belonging to their community or place.

Te rongo a wairua refers to teaching tamariki how to contribute, and providing opportunities for tamariki to express their empathy for their worlds and to contribute in meaningful ways.

Other important considerations for enhancing mana through practices of kaitiakitanga include making connections with the local community and with tupuna, as well as teaching children about and connecting to ngā atua. Teachers might also consider ways they can role-model the enhancement of mana and kaitiakitanga, and how they can support and encourage behaviours and attitudes that support mana and kaitiakitanga. A resource is being developed tosupport kaiako with the appropriate content knowledge, pedagogical pratices, and contextual requirements for enhancing mana through kaitiakitanga in early childhood settings.

Further reading

Te Whakapūmautia te mana: Enhancing mana through kaitiakitanga  

Rameka, L., Soutar, B., & Paki, V. (2021). Te rongo ā tinana, ā hinengaro, ā ngākau ā wairua: Enhancing Māori wellbeing in early childhood education. Journal of Indigenous Wellbeing. Te Rau Ora, 6(3).

Rameka, L., Soutar, B., Paki, V., & Clayton, L. (2021). Taunaki puna reo: Kaiako considerations of mana and kaitiakitanga. Waikato Journal of Education, 26(2), 9–20.

Rameka, L., Soutar, B., & Paki, V. (2021). Ngā taonga mōhiotanga: Kaumātua voices. MAI Journal, 10(2).


[1] New Report Card shows that New Zealand is failing its children | UNICEF Aotearoa

By Dr Vicki Hargraves

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