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Is child slave labour keeping our schools afloat?

5 April 2005

Is child slave labour keeping our schools afloat?

The Greens are calling on the Government to conduct an inquiry into school “donations” in light of claims students are having to undertake manual, unpaid labour so their schools can make ends meet.

“Every day, we hear more stories of students, parents and principals being forced to roll up their sleeves for their schools because the Government’s simply not providing enough money,” Green Education Spokesperson Metiria Turei said. “The Government needs to investigate how much schools are asking of parents and students, in time and money, so it can be sure it’s living up to its legal obligation of providing free education to all New Zealanders.”

Mrs Turei, who challenged Associate Education Minister David Benson-Pope in Parliament this afternoon about the funding issue, is calling on the Government to justify stories coming out of schools up and down the country about students, parents, principals, and teachers doing unpaid, manual labour.

“The current lack of government funding is choking the education system, placing unbearable burdens on to parents, students, teachers, and principals.

“A parent of students at Otumoetai College has claimed their kids were ostracised for refusing to take part in a money-earning work day for the school, which included breaking up and carrying concrete,” Mrs Turei said.

“A North Shore principal has also taken on the role as his school’s caretaker in a desperate attempt to cut costs. Kaipara Flats School can only afford to pay their caretaker for ten hours a week, so he works the rest of the time on a voluntary basis.”

Mrs Turei said the Greens were urging the Government to take heed of the warning from the New Zealand School Trustees’ Association that “if all parents chose not to pay optional donations, there would not be enough money to run the education system”. According to the Education Act 1989, every New Zealand child is entitled to free enrolment and free education at any state school from the time they are five years old till the end of the year in which they turn 19.

“It is time for the Government to reassess how much it is putting into education to ensure that it really is free. Only when the Government significantly increases funding for our schools will our children be able to spend their time at school doing what they’re meant to be: learning.”

NZSTA has estimated that parents raise about half a billion dollars a year for schools to supplement the Government’s operational grant funding of $900 million.

ENDS

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