You may have noticed your Facebook friends’ profile pictures changing to the “education for all” picture. It should be simply a statement of something we can take for granted in this country – we’re told we have a world-class education system, we’re told it is inclusive, we’re told it is free. The reality is our education system is failing it’s most vulnerable students, and in turn their families and wider society. Students that have so much potential, students who could flourish and succeed if our education system was genuinely inclusive and resourced adequately; students who are instead treated like after-thoughts and who are given up on.
It’s such a waste, and the impact of the lack of training for working with children who have special needs, lack of in-class supports, and dire under-resourcing, is widely-felt. It’s felt by the teachers and the other students. It’s felt by the parents of children who can’t work because they’re being called into school all the time, or who are expected to home-school their children or keep their children at home during “kiwi suspensions” because the school can’t cope. And most importantly, it’s felt by the children who have these different needs; it’s affecting their future, and the way they see themselves and their own potential. The impact on their educational and career opportunities, on their ability to ultimately contribute to society themselves, and on their image of self-worth, can be life-long.
We should all be concerned about this, not just because it ultimately affects all of us, but because what is happening in our schools is shameful and embarrassing and is falling short of what we expect and value in this beautiful country of ours.
Recently the government decided to look at special education in New Zealand, and its proposals for how to fix the system have not addressed any of the core problems we face. What we need is better training, better resourcing, better supports, a simpler system for accessing supports, shorter waiting times for services, and meaningful inclusion. What we got was tinkering on language and a shifting of resources without an increase in funding. We are not being listened to. And so it’s time to make them listen.
That brings us to the “education for all” rally. There will be a rally this Thursday, September 22nd, for everyone who wants to stand up and be heard about the shortcomings of our education system. If you can, please join the rally outside Parliament Building in Wellington, from 4:30pm to 5:30pm on that day. It’s going to be a family-friendly event, and a good chance to meet some like-minded people uniting for a good cause. You can find out more about the rally through their Facebook event page here. If you can’t make it, then consider sharing the event with others who may be able to attend, and consider changing your Facebook (and twitter, etc) profile pictures to show your support and promote this event. I can’t make it, but if I lived in Wellington I’d have proudly been there. If you go, please do come back after the event and share your experience; I’d love to hear how it goes, and to thank you for standing up for our families and our children.
For more information on the government’s proposed changes, and an excellent post in general on why it’s time to rally, plus helpful links to relevant reports and news articles, I point you towards “This time we rally” by Giovanni Tiso.