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Education: a major Demo policy

Friday 22 March 2013 | Published in Local

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Education will be a major focus of the Democratic Party.

If it gets into government, it will be a priority to address and fund the fundamentals of education.

Tereora College for instance will be overhauled and lots of funding will be poured into that school to make available better resources, excellent and professional teaching staff. The standard of that school will be equal to those of Western developed countries. We deserve that and we can do it.

The Minister of Education, Teina Bishop, the secretary of education Sharyn Paio and education ministry staff are currently doing a ‘round the rock’ jaunt on Air Raro dispatching laptop computers that were bought from a $50,000 donation from the Tan Siu Lin Foundation a subsidiary of multinational Chinese company Luen Thai. This company has fishing vessels licensed by the Ministry of Marine Resources to fish in our waters and are pressing the government for purse seine licenses.

The Ministry of Education also says that this trip is also an opportunity to talk to northern group educators, students and parents about the newly passed Education Bill 2011. It’s also a chance for one on one meetings.

I am happy for this to have taken place but it has been a long time coming.

I am, however, not happy with the fact that this was prompted by the Luen Thai donation – its bribery in a sense, isn’t it?

This government came into office in November 2010 and it’s now March 2013 and this is the first such trip by the ministry. That is disappointing.

I have absolutely no doubt that the level and standard of schooling in the northern Cook Islands has dropped dramatically. It seems to me that this government and previous governments (including my own) have failed to bring education of the outer islands to a satisfactory stage. Several decades ago, many scholars came from afar as Tongareva Island, Manihiki, Pukapuka, Rakahanga and indeed a lot came from the island of Mangaia during the years David Lewis was principal there.

If you look around today, the generation of doctors, lawyers, teachers etc (now in their late 50s and early 60s and some older) were products of those schools. Today, absolutely nothing – a couple may find their ways here through the efforts of their parents and if anything are operating by way of education ministry initiatives that are so diluted with everything else that they have become invisible. Sad, isn’t it.

I remember when I was living on Tongareva Island during the ‘pearl farming years’. The government of the day placed so much emphasis on people becoming wealthy pearl farmers that the children of families of the island gave up schooling to be labourers–working for the common good of the family. It was devastating when I witnessed this shift of attitude. In my days, we spent a lot of time reading at Sunday school and were in education related activities almost all the time. The kids of the ‘pearl farming’ era did not have literacy drilled into them, and most today struggle to write.

Well, there, I’ve said it. I confess to the value of education and it is a ‘matter of fact’ for my family. My wife is a New Zealand trained teacher with some university papers to her name. She did continuing education to improve herself. My daughter and son are both graduates and now working in Rarotonga. My granddaughters have been instilled with the value of education being paramount. So if I am to lead the next government, I make this promise right now, there will be major changes and a strong drive for better and successful education in all our schools here in Rarotonga, the southern group and the northern group. Education needs to be a way of life, something of intrinsic value to each and every Cook Islander. No reira Kia Toa.