The week kicked off with a reminder of just how privileged we are to be living in New Zealand. First up was Victoria University’s climate change conference, where Kiribati President Anote Tong laid out the issues facing low-lying Pacific nations. Discussing his country’s future with Andrew Little he noted that even if there was a massive sea change on how the world responds to climate change the 102,000 islanders on Kiribati are unlikely to have a home within 50 years. Just as poignant was the testimony of the young refugee who told a public hearing at Parliament of the heartache of having to leave two brothers in a Thai refugee camp after the family fled Myanmar following the torture and killing of her father – used by the army to minesweep. Despite that, she was, she said, ‘so grateful’ to be in New Zealand. “We’ll never forget what you have done for us, in the country we now call ours. New Zealanders should be proud of what they are doing.” Food for thought.
A new Universities New Zealand study showing qualified teacher aides are earning less than those with no qualifications at all, shows just how much the system needs to change, Labour’s Education spokesperson Chris Hipkins says.
“Teacher aides work with some of our most disadvantaged students, yet they are often poorly paid, receive very little in the way of professional support, and have next to no job security. That’s unfair and needs to change.
The year’s first House sitting week might have been and gone, but what a rip snorter.
Bring it on home
First up - and we couldn’t let the week go by without mentioning it – was Waitangi Day. Serious issues got an airing, as they should, but this year's was surely the first to have a trending hashtag, and hopefully the last where a Minister gets walloped with a rubber body part. The palaver continued, during the usual Tuesday caucus-run standup. Like the proverbial dog with a, er, tasty morsel, the media just couldn’t seem to let it go. Andrew Little confirmed his status as a true professional, the journos not so much. Their reaction is priceless…
The Ministry of Education forked out a whopping $100,000 a day on consultants and contractors last year – eight times more since National came to office in 2008, Labour’s Education spokesperson Chris Hipkins says.
“The Ministry appears to be throwing money at consultants so fast it often doesn’t even bother to use government rules for tendering.
Parents will be horrified Hekia Parata is overseeing a $19.5 million refit for Education Ministry staff which includes a “concierge style reception” and “Koru Lounge” while some of their children sit in leaking mouldy classrooms, Labour’s Education spokesperson Chris Hipkins says.
It beggars belief that Steven Joyce will use a downturn in student numbers to reinvest in tertiary institutions when he has acted like one man razor gang against the sector, Labour’s Education spokesperson Chris Hipkins says.
“The Tertiary Education Minister today claimed he would reinvest some of the $120 million fall in Government funding that universities and other tertiary institutions face because of a forecast loss of 10,000 students over the next three years.
Student loan debt has increased by over 50 per cent since National became the government, hitting $15 billion this year and projected to continue increasing year on year, Labour’s Education spokesperson Chris Hipkins says.
“This is getting out of control. Over two decades after the student loan was introduced, we still haven’t reached the stage where repayments exceed borrowing, and projections suggest we’re not going to get there anytime soon.
The Ministry of Education is using a review of special education to push for further cost cutting instead of hearing pleas to properly fund services, Labour’s Education spokesperson Chris Hipkins says.
“This fantastic opportunity to improve the lives of children with special needs has been lost on the Ministry.