I went along to the Hamilton NZEI Stand up for Kids – Protect Our Schools rally & march yesterday, thinking it was the least I could do for the teachers who have educated my children, many of whom are still teaching at the same levels, long after my offspring have left their care.
I had the impression that Hamiltonians were not very ‘protesty’ people, and that the teachers might need every radical education policy lefty activist in the region to show up.
When I arrived at the rallying point, there was a huge crew of NZEI marshalls in yellow vests, handing out chant sheets and lovely round purple and red (double-sided) posters for marchers to hold.
They were surrounded by teachers, parents and children, and such a huge collection of banners from schools around the region, along with hand-made signs carried by resourceful marchers and children.
I caught up with a few local Greenies from the Hamilton Branch & the Campus Greens, and managed a short chat with Cath Delahunty before we all set off. Thanks to a young local friend, I have an estimate of around 400 people marching, which I was informed was a very good turnout for Hamilton; dire descriptions of events where the turnout totaled 20 brave bodies followed.
After about a fifteen minute walk, the crowd arrived at Steele Park in Hamilton East, where a stage-truck was set to provide sound amplification for the speakers, and an avid crew of NZEI volunteers sizzled sausages for hungry marchers. Credit was given to Anglican Action for providing the consumables to run the sausage sizzle.
There was much singing and chanting along the way; as you’d expect of teachers, there were very clearly written chant sheets, and a song sheet with waiata and karakia which were used at various points during the proceedings. Local kaumatua were on hand to lead those parts, and give a blessing to the efforts of the marchers.
Speakers included Professor Martin Thrupp, from Waikato University’s Faculty of Education, who spoke about his research into the dreaded National Standards which has pretty much been ignored by the Minister, along with a statement signed by 150 academics in the field of education research – a major feat in itself – which was sent to the Minister.
Green MP Cath Delahunty spoke, exhorting the crowd to ‘vote the Government out’ at the next elections if they want to see their schools maintained at the level of excellence that current standards allow. There was discussion of the effects of the ‘Charter Schools’ policies favoured by the Minister, and a general desire to retain trained, qualified teachers in our education system was expressed both in her speech and on placards held by marchers.
Labour MP Sue Maroney echoed Cath’s call to ‘vote them out’ and said to teachers, encourage parents at your schools to enroll and vote, it’s the strongest message parents can send to the Government.
Anglican Action’s director Karen Morrison-Hume spoke last, praising teachers who are at the pointy end of social welfare, funding breakfasts and even lunches in our decile 1 & 2 schools so that children living in poverty-stricken homes can have at least some chance of learning. She spoke of the parlous situation of charities, who have had donation cuts from big businesses who are less able in the current economic climate to donate food for social programs – alleviation of social distress that should be covered by MSD/WINZ, not teachers or supermarket owners with a conscience.
There may be pictures later, sorry folks my capacity for uploading the ones I took is limited; I’m borrowing a camera I don’t know quite how to sync with my desktop system (yet). There’s a work-around, but it’s cumbersome.
Guess I need some intensive re-education as well!