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Letter: Leadership, not money, the answer

Monday 24 June 2024 | Written by Supplied | Published in Letters to the Editor, Opinion

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Letter: Leadership, not money, the answer

Dear Editor, I was interested to read about the education debate in Parliament last week. Leader of the Opposition, Tina Browne, shared her concern about the low academic achievements of Tereora College students.

As first a parent and now a grandparent of Tereora students, I share her concern; the current academic results look like something from a third-world country, not an independent New Zealand realm nation.

Minister Vaine “Mac” Mokoroa suggests that paying teachers more money will help fix these problems. I am not so convinced. Not because I know better, but because of what I’ve heard from people who know the teachers themselves. I’m sure the extra wages will help, especially the Cook Islands teachers wanting to return to work from overseas.

The bigger problem I’m hearing about, the problem that has apparently contributed to many teacher resignations and the academic failure of the students, is the perceived poor leadership in our schools and at the Ministry of Education. 

This, of course, is not being reported because teachers are reluctant to discuss it, reluctant and unable to say anything, publicly at least. As we have seen, over and over, without professional leadership, no amount of money fixes much in the Cook Islands, if anything. 

Just last Thursday, while the government congratulated themselves on solving the “education problem” I heard about a highly experienced, caring and dedicated teacher in Rarotonga who had spoken of resigning after she was refused sick leave by her school principal. The teacher had apparently tested positive for Covid on the day, and despite being sick, infectious and knowing she should go home, was forced, by the principal, to stay at school to meet with parents during a teacher-parent conference day. Is it not difficult to imagine what would have been the result in New Zealand if staff, parents and students were intentionally exposed to Covid. How many hours before the principal was sacked and packing up?

I don’t personally know this teacher, but I want to applaud and thank her, and any other teachers like her, who appear to be working, alone and unsupported, in unsafe Cook Island schools.

Sorry Mac, but money doesn’t fix problems like this. Unless your teachers are safe, supported and well led, your extra money and higher qualifications won’t achieve much. Your efforts and commitment are appreciated, but, for the sake of our future leaders and this country’s future, please, be the leader our teachers and tamariki desperately need.

(Name and address supplied)