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New Zealand Breaches United Nations Obligations

Saturday, September 29 2001

New Zealand is breaching its United Nations obligations by not enforcing legislation for compulsory schooling, ACT Education Spokesman MP Donna Awatere Huata said today.

Yesterday Mrs Awatere Huata published figures showing the Government has completely lost track of hundreds of children who drop out of one school and don't enrol in another. Primary school drop outs are increasing at an alarming rate. (see Fact Sheet below) .

"The United Nations Convention of the Child was ratified by New Zealand in the early 1990s. Article 28 states that nations must 'take measures to encourage . . . the reduction of drop-out rates'." New Zealand has taken no measures.

"We have absolutely no system to track down the children who have dropped out of one school and failed to enrol in another. As a result, the figures I released yesterday are merely the tip of the iceberg. We have absolutely no idea how many more kids are lost out there.

"The twelve year-old facing a murder charge represents one face of long-term truancy: he didn't go to school for two years. How many more kids have to appear in court before this Government wakes up? How many stories do we have to hear about thirteen-year-old prostitutes, or teenagers killing themselves with substance abuse?

"It is criminal for the Government to continue doing nothing.

"Education Minister Trevor Mallard 'hopes' to start a brief trial of a database monitoring a small group of students over the age of fifteen some time in the future. That's as bad as doing nothing.

"Primary schools are reporting higher numbers of kids dropping out completely. The reasons are varied, but the results are always heart-rending.

"I wrote to Ministers earlier this week calling on them to urgently introduce a central database to monitor school enrolments. I have not yet received a reply.

"Social Services Minister Steve Maharey plans to attend this year's United Nations Special Session on Children.

"It would be immoral for him to attend while his Government ignores this problem.

"It is past the time for talk and promises. For the sake of New Zealand's kids, we need to create this database now," Donna Awatere Huata said.

ENDS

Fact Sheet

Students are supposed to be referred to the Non-Enrolment Truancy Service (NETS) if teachers and principals note they have not attended school for longer than 20 days.

In 2000, 257 children could not be found at all.

In just the first two terms of this year, 85 kids could not be found.

NETS receives $1,331,750. This has remained unchanged for five years, despite the number of referrals jumping by 1,000 in that time, and the number of kids under the age of nine rising by 200 (see press release, Friday 29 September, 2001).

Total Referrals 1997: 3172 children were referred to NETS, 698 could not be found.1998: 3082 children were referred to NETS, 614 could not be found.1999: 4092 children were referred to NETS, 781 could not be found.2000: 4037 children were referred to NETS, 878 could not be found.

Referrals by Ministry of Education Region
Auckland: 1999, 1375 Referrals2000, 2146 Referrals

Hamilton: 1999, 614 Referrals2000, 783 Referrals

Napier: 1999, 190 Referrals2000, 230 Referrals

Wanganui: 1999, 292 Referrals2000, 451 Referrals

Lower Hutt:1999, 367 Referrals2000, 500 Referrals

Christchurch:1999, 139 Referrals2000, 184 Referrals

Dunedin:1999, 108 Referrals2000, 142 Referrals

Table information from Parliamentary Questions 13116, 13104, 13105, 13106, 13112, 13127 (2001); Parliamentary Question 008227 (1999)


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