Bevan Morgan writes:
“I’ve written a lot recently about our government’s pathetic effort last week in shutting down the food in schools legislation. And I’ve learned a few things since then.
“The biggest takeaway has been that we have a major problem with how people conceptualise issues. Listening to people’s attitudes about poverty in New Zealand it is clear that it’s not simply a case of people not knowing about poverty – it is that that they don’t actually understand the very concept at its core foundation. Describing the reality and impact of poverty to people from middle NZ is like trying to explain string theory to someone who has never even heard of the term ‘physics’. You may as well be speaking Cantonese.
“There have been a lot of people tell me various myths, misconceptions, and out right lies about the poor in New Zealand. But even if all of those things were true (which they are not) not one single person has been able to explain to me how anything that poor parents may do wrong is the fault of the children.
“Not one single person.
“Because people are so angry at the poor for being poor, they have no problem with the wealthy ripping us off by $9.5 billion a year. And they have no problem feeding the future generation to the wolves despite the fact that they profess to love kids. That’s insane.
“Even if we look at it selfishly, people are so angry at people for being poor and daring to want assistance that they are literally willing to punish potential future doctors and engineers just to make a point.
In pure dollars and cents terms, our attitude to poor children is an absolute waste of future money: We are throwing away future billions for the cost of some Weetbix.”
“This is so counter-intuitive to human nature it is absolutely staggering. But sadly our leaders have done such a good job of hiding poverty that nothing is going to change any time soon. Unfortunately things will only change when inequality becomes so ridiculous that we have lost our middle class.
“But then again if the USA is anything to go by, this won’t even make a difference.”
– Written by Bevan Morgan and shared with permission. Read more by Bevan, at https://bevan-morgan.squarespace.com/
It’s been 2 days since National, ACT and United Future voted down the Feed The Kids Bill, and I am still fluctuating between heartbroken and seething.
As for the Under-Secretary-for-Charter-Schools-and-Generally-Selling-off-our-Education-System-to-the-Private-Sector, said that “…in general from a Māori perspective, top down centralised solutions have never been very good for them.” Because, you know, only Maori kids are hungry, and he’s such an expert on all things Maori, being a rich white guy from Epsom.
So let’s turn to people who DO know about poverty. Who have lived it. Who aren’t just waffling to promote or protect their own careers. No, not teachers this time – let’s turn to a gang leader.
Jamie Pink is the president of the Tribal Huk gang. This gang runs a Feed The Kids operation of its own: “They are making sandwiches for kids at school who have nothing to eat. They make between 450 and 500 sandwiches every school day and deliver them to 25 Waikato schools in Hamilton, Ngaruawahia, Huntly – as far north as Rangiriri.” They fund this themselves, and use either home-grown produce or bought goods, using 40 loaves a day (Coupland’s Bakery sells it to them for 90c a loaf – bless you, Coupland’s).
The Tribal Huks have been making and delivering sandwiches for two and a half years and haven’t missed a single day, reports Waikato Stuff.
This gang sees a need and meets it. They realise that kids learn far better if they are not hungry. They get that children will will see school as a far more positive experience if they are fed there.
“When I was little we had no food,” says Pink, “so I grew up a hungry little bugger and a bit angry, too.
“The main reason we’re doing this is because there’s a lot of hungry kids out there and it means a lot to be able to fill their little bellies up.”
And despite David Seymour’s ‘expert’ comments, it’s not only Maori bellies that need feeding. When the gang heard of a child who could not eat their sandwiches as they weren’t halal, they made different sandwiches just for him. Because whilst David Seymour thinks only Maori kids are going hungry, Pink knows different, and rather than wax lyrical his gang meet the need. Jam sandwiches it is, for as long as the lad needs them.
Will Pink stop? No. “‘There’s no stopping,” says Pink. ”There’s no, ‘Oh, I don’t feel well today, we’re not coming in.’ Nah, it don’t work like that. No way, no way. Because then you’d get that nightmare that those kids might not have been fed that day. Oh, that’s enough to keep you going.”
How shameful that failure to feed the kids would give Pink nightmares but doesn’t make Peter Dunne miss a wink.
And while Pink is delivering sandwiches daily, John Key maintains his wilful ignorance and refuses Metiria Turei’s invitation to visit a school in need of a food in schools programme.
What a bizarre and shameful situation for New Zealand that a gang understands hunger’s relationship to education better than those in government.
Read the full article here.
Because feeding hungry kids so they can learn is SO last season.
See here for the Children’s Commissioner recommendations on poverty: http://www.occ.org.nz/publications/expert-advisory-group/
by Judith Nowotarski, NZEI Te Riu Roa President
When it came out this week that Treasury had advised the government that school breakfasts had no measurable impact on educational performance, principals of low decile schools around the country were flabbergasted.
It appears the officials at Treasury know more than the doctors and nutritionists who have long championed the crucial importance of breakfast, especially for children. They certainly think they know more than the principals who see the difference a full belly makes on concentration and behaviour levels. They have even managed to find one study from Auckland University to support their stance, despite what the overwhelming majority of other local and international research says.
Windley School in Porirua has a breakfast club five days a week and principal Rhys McKinley has observed that on the three occasions that fights have occurred, they involved students who hadn’t had breakfast. Many of the students come from very difficult home situations and being able to come to school and start the day with a hot, nutritious breakfast means they can focus on their work rather than their gnawing hunger.
The students at Windley School are lucky to have a breakfast club, run most days by volunteers from Arise Church and school staff, but many low decile schools are missing out or receive support and funding on an ad hoc basis from various NGOs and community groups.
Certainly the government doesn’t want to get involved – they are trying to farm out social services such as housing. They don’t want to take on any more initiatives, even though every charity that works with impoverished families thinks school meals are a great idea.
Feeding hungry kids is surely a moral obligation in a country that can afford to do so. It is also just the beginning of what needs to be done to break the cycle of poverty that is trapping too many families. It is almost two years since the Children’s Commissioner’s Experts Advisory Group released its report with 72 solutions to child poverty, but it was largely sidelined. Boosting family incomes is the obvious key to reducing poverty, but that will take time and investment. In the meantime, children still need energy to learn.
The Treasury paper from February 2013 warned that if the government itself got involved in providing food in schools there was a risk of “scope creep” – uncontrolled or continuous growth in costs. It pointed out that the government already supplies fruit in low decile schools and the likes of KidsCan, Fonterra and Sanitarium run breakfast clubs. The fear of spending too much money is apparently a good justification for spending hardly any at all.
Treasury recommended more research on the extent of the problem and engaging with existing providers of food in schools to understand the level of need.
Meanwhile, as the numbers are crunched, children are going hungry through no fault of their own. As treasury pointed out, not every child who misses breakfast does so because of a lack of food, but tens of thousands do. Many of these children went to bed hungry in the first place. And then we ask them to come to school for a mentally and physically exhausting day of learning.
Inevitably, in a discussion such as this, some people will blame the parents for inadequate budgeting, but whether parents could have stretched the grocery budget more effectively or not, the fact remains that children in our first world country are going hungry. If you don’t have compassion for hungry kids in this land flowing with milk and Weetbix, you could consider what a drain on the public purse their poor health and educational underachievement will be in the future.
For the government to depend on charities and corporate philanthropy to meet the needs of the increasing number of families that are falling through the cracks is like baling a sinking boat with a tea cup. Certainly the government needs to focus on growing the economy and creating jobs that families can afford to live on. But please, in the meantime, can we also ensure no child has to learn and grow on an empty stomach? What’s good for the weakest and most vulnerable amongst us, is good for all of us.
The principal of May Road School in Auckland, Lynda Stuart, has challenged Treasury officials to go without breakfast for one month in order to share the experience of thousands of New Zealand children.
She says it beggars belief for Treasury to suggest that there is no link between hunger and educational success.
“We run a breakfast club and so we see first-hand how breakfast sets children up for the day. Any teacher will tell you that a child who is hungry will not be able to learn properly. Contrary to what Treasury believes, this is backed by real evidence from both here and overseas.”
The principal of Merivale school in Tauranga, Jan Tinetti, agrees and says breakfast club at her school is absolutely crucial.
“For a lot of our kids it’s the first meal they’ve had since lunch time the previous day. I’ve seen kids that arrive at school completely off the boil and so we get them over to breakfast club and that settles them down and puts them in the correct space for learning. The difference that breakfast makes is simply enormous.”
She says that moreover, feeding hungry children should not be just a value-added or cost-risk argument.
“Surely it is immoral to suggest that it’s fine for children to be allowed to go hungry because there’s no food in the fridge at home?”
NZEI Te Riu Roa President Judith Nowotarski says she backs Ms Stuart’s challenge.
“I think it would be a very good reality check for Treasury Secretary Gabriel Makhlouf and his senior advisors to go hungry and see how effective they are in their jobs.”
“It is time for Treasury to stop indulging in its ideological agenda and see the real world.”
“Research consistently shows that children who do not have adequate food at home are likely to be more frequently absent or late to school than their peers, have lower academic achievement and poorer performance, especially in numeracy and literacy, and difficulty concentrating.”
Children go hungry in all countries, in all walks of life, but some countries are better than others at accepting the responsibility for ensuring children are fed.
“Today our goal to offer every infant child a healthy, tasty school meal has become a reality, a move that will put money back in parents’ pockets while ensuring all children get the best possible start in life.”
“The government has provided £1bn to meet the costs of the meals over the next two years.
“In addition, it has made £150m available to improve kitchen and dining facilities, plus an extra £22.5m for small schools.
“Schools will have a legal duty to offer the meals, which are expected to save families £400 per year per child.”
“Mana Party leader Hone Harawira’s member’s bill to provide free breakfasts to all low decile schools is due before Parliament in coming weeks but is unlikely to get majority support.” Source
I didn’t pass. Just breakfast for low decile schools – not even all schools – just those at the sharp end – and it STILL didn’t pass.
So, charities are again filling the gaps:
Other countries like the UK… provide state-funded free meals to eligible students, and some such as Brazil and Chile provide state-funded free meals to schools with high levels of deprivation.
Come on, New Zealand, it’s not too much to ask that kids are assured on one decent meal a day on school days so they can concentrate and learn. It’s time to get this sorted out. Let’s do this.
The Green Party have unveiled their education proposals, and they clearly aim to address head on the issues facing those students living in poverty.
Metiria Turei stressed that “10 per cent of New Zealand children were living in poverty, poorer kids had three times the rate of hospital admissions from preventable illnesses and were up to 50 per cent more likely to become a poor adult and perpetuate the poverty cycle” and that this needs to be addressed in order for children to have the best chance of success.
This view is upheld by the OECD, and the latest PISA study made clear that equality, health care and safety were the hugest factors in a child’s chance of future success. Having good quality teachers a big factor in the classroom, but is not the greatest factor overall.
John Key fudged that point in his speech last week. He acknowledged that quality teachers a big factor in the classroom (but without any stress on “in the classroom” so that it was read by many to mean that teachers have the biggest influence on success full stop), and he then went on to say that we don’t have increasing poverty and inequality in NZ, refusing to accept that there is any link between poverty and lower educational success.
This is rubbish, and he knows it. There is a mountain of research and analysis that shows the link very clearly. *
It’s good to know that the Greens acknowledge the link and intend to do something concrete to address it. This is the Greens’ plan, as reported at Stuff:
The Greens have unveiled a new policy which would see schools in lower income areas turned into hubs which would meet all the health, social and welfare needs of poor families.
Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei announced the policy in a speech to party faithful at Waitangi Park in Wellington this afternoon, saying inequality was increasing in New Zealand and the best way for people to escape the poverty trap was through education.
“Education remains the most effective route out of poverty. But school only works for children if they are in a position to be able to learn,” the party’s policy statement reads.
“Many kids come with a complicated mix of social, health and family issues, often related to low income, that need to be addressed before they can get the most out of school.” Read more here.
And this is the NZEI’s response to the proposals:
Green Party education proposals will make a big difference for children
NZEI Te Riu Roa says it welcomes the Green Party’s proposals to tackle the impact of growing inequality on children’s education.
National President, Judith Nowotarski says the proposal to develop health, welfare and support service hubs in lower decile schools goes right to the heart of tackling the biggest problem we face in our education system – poverty and inequity.
“International evidence clearly shows that poverty and inequality are by far the biggest obstacles that children face in education.
“This proposal directly targets these real issues and, if adopted, would make a big difference to the education outcome of thousands of children in this country.
“Policies such as this would ensure that many more children in this country get the opportunity for a good education – something that teachers and school support staff have been calling for, for a long time.”
However, Ms Nowotarski says inequality and poverty are now much more spread throughout the community so NZEI wants to see policies that target children from financially disadvantaged backgrounds at all schools – not just lower decile schools.
She says the education sector looks forward to working with the Greens in further design and implementation of the policy.