Opinion, education and social development


On education alone.

I would vote for the party that holds the ticket to equal opportunities education in a way that no other party can match.

Our children are our future.

Young school leavers are currently facing a hopeless outlook, and it does not take more than a few life hurdles for kids from the affluent sectors on this land to join them.

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Our schools must harbour an education system that prepares all individuals to join the world of the living. Not to become a contingency of poverty and hopelessness, propping up and dying by the crime syndicates that are led by well-connected importers.

Not so long ago I phoned a guy, he was a life coach. I googled him, and phoned him up. How the hell was I going to get out of the catch 22 I was in with high rent on a house falling into a state of disrepair, a stretched benefit income, an ACC battle, a shared custody arrangement, and never enough to make ends meet no matter how resourceful I was…

This guy on the end of the phone explained to me, that he had inherited a farm, and his business was largely received information, -that changed his life, but that he mostly worked for people in similar circumstances to himself. It was a big deal to have to consider selling your late father’s farm, and have a change of lifestyle… He seemed to concede that he had very little to offer me. And then we talked about suicide.

I talked about the arts community. How it didn’t strike poor or rich people in particular, but that while everyone was so stretched by property prices, and by funding for public services being pulled everywhere… people are less able to be there for their friends, less able to be there for each other in any kind of circumstance… wedding or funeral.

So, he turned it around to suggest that I was living in a luxury of a big house in Grey Lynn. I forgive him. It was probably hard for him to concede that he was a ‘life coach’ just for people with capital.

My son sleeps in the sunroom off my room, or with me. I have one flatmate in his old room, and if I were to lease the living room as a bedroom, – because the rent is so high, my living costs after the adjustment of my accommodation allowance would stay the same… not enough. I’m now using the space to work from as I transition into a sustainable self-employment.

I steered the conversation back to his community, and he softened as he talked about suicide in the rural community. “These guys get isolated…”

I can imagine it, I have in my childhood, edged around the farming world via parent’s friends, friends’ parents, family.

It was a strange two-hour conversation that led to what we both have in common. A concern for friends and colleagues, a social conscience, and a desire to help people better themselves in a way that knits together hopefully for all.

But there was no life coach, budgeting advisor or bank that could help me for eight years living below the expected survival threshold. And my kind friends will remember the year I pleaded for help online when I was ill. A devastating and humbling experience that brought me to tears of gratitude for a week. Weeks.

It shouldn’t have had to take so long, and a social intervention for me to get on my feet.

We need preventative measures that should stop people becoming entrapped by the Ministry of Social Development, and unable to make any progress in the way that happened to me. The way things are going, the shared information about people from kindergarten-age is going to be open to interpretation in a way that will make it nigh on impossible to escape from the snowballing effect of pathologizing likelihoods. Telling anyone you were on a benefit immediately creates a certain profiling. Privacy! Privacy exists for good reason, other than just the fact that what goes on under our rooves should be private! Privacy allows us personally to undertake the virtuous path of being better than we were before, without repercussions of our past lives haunting us.

We want society to get better, but an invasive surveillance and data collection system such as the PRI, make it difficult for individuals to better themselves.

I was humiliated in the WINZ office. I was joked about loudly between staff members and refused food grants when I needed them. I was brought to tears several times. The accusation was that I was “milking it”. I overheard people saying that I “had no shame” – there was a culture in my Winz office that I was for some reason not there from necessity. I had to become ill before I was allowed a food grant. I had to beg for assistance with the car, so I could maintain the custody arrangement. “We get all types in here” is what the reps will say if you cry, and if you say, “But you can’t do that!” and thump the table… They will call the security guards over and write on your file that you were ‘abusive’.

My doctor said to me, – you have these degrees, you are capable and clever, why are you still on a benefit…

I said, I am suffering from a considerable injury as a result of treatment, and I need it to be taken seriously. My landlord also puts the rent up each year, and I have to fulfil a court appointed custody agreement. Sometimes I don’t have enough for food or petrol, but to change my circumstances, I would have to give up my son, and I’m not prepared to do that.

Next time I went to the doctor’s, that particular doctor’s books were full.

She didn’t have room for me any longer.

There must be so many people now who as I have been, have the education and yet cannot move, or who are ready and willing to get through their school years despite trouble at home, only to find the teachers have no comprehension of their struggle. There must be many otherwise productive and capable people, weakened by simple stark hunger whether they sit in a house or on a doorstep as you read this.

I understand why people thought I was lying, but not many people would live on nothing for as long as I did to keep a rental in Grey Lynn. Mainly I didn’t want to go too far away and risk losing custody, but also, for some years there, there is no way I could have afforded a truck, and a bond, and so on, and the vulnerability of my financial situation was very real when you consider the housing climate. Also, many people are just not as resourceful as I had to be. I went without food, or ate for example, borage, and onion bulbs and bamboo from the garden at the end of one hard winter, while giving 90% of my income to the landlord, as well as continuously encouraging him to provide safe and hygienic upkeep on the house. I should provide the recipe! I made sure my child had a reasonable lunch box, getting into the habit of rising early to bake simple Anzac biscuits or whatever. Baking is a luxury for many, but the Edmonds cook book is based on wartime and depression standards after all.

Anyway, mostly I wasn’t begging a doctor to see me for free, or at the scrapyard trying to source a wheel for my car for under $40, or op-shopping for curtains so we could have privacy at night after living in the same house for four years, etc……..          and the stigma and the nasty comments, and the sense of falling in society, and the fear that you’ll fall further, which no doubt makes people vulnerable again….  and the other people who think you must be cheating them…

The problem? Is in people’s perception. Also in their empathy, or lack of it. And the lack of critical thinking throughout our populace. Why don’t some people have an inquiring mind? There’s a nature / nurture argument here. But I believe it starts early, and that overall an inquiring mind is one of the natural gifts of life that we are born with. What happens to it?

Why isn’t it clear to so many that education is like planting a social garden, -or crop, for agriculturalists! What will it take for the many people who want to do right by all people to understand that education is the basis by which our future is created.

Early education specifically needs to be free and supportive. Early school leavers are also a risk group. Giving them a channel by which that can feel that they are navigating a pathway into life will not only help them for that year, it will save their lives.

Most high school students are focussed on exams, and it seems that knowledge of social policy, is not for them. However even an understanding of basic democracy and the meaning of the word, has been absent from the curriculum, and so remains untaught. In some schools, you can study a history of Britain’s royal family, – I think it’s fascinating myself, but there is no offer to study our political spectrum in a way that is relevant to young people entering society.

Reductionist thinking is dangerous, it’s dangerous in education, it’s dangerous in the medical world, and it’s dangerous in social policy. We need specialists, we need those very highly trained people, but they need to be well rounded, or else surrounded by people who have more diverse training albeit less specialized than theirs.

Of course, schools i.e.: everyone… meaning people, must have a state provided teaching of social dynamic; the meanings of the words democracy; the meaning of the word diversity; yes, it can remain politically neutral, and that’s the hassle, but for it not to be there, is not politically neutral.

The huge problem we have with a tendency to blame others is completely about this. A lack of knowledge. And it’s beyond funny. Our infrastructure is in a hostage situation, to continue the allegory, we are pleading with them to let the women and children out… It would be better if we could have all our people safe… But our children are our future. They are the future. They deserve to be able to have an education. In this country, we have always been so proud of our social policy. The danger is to segregate social policy from fiscal policy from education and military… this mechanical approach to governance has been a hijacking, but it will always be a dysfunctional governance if it does not consider the synergies of melded societal aspects.

It’s time to let common sense rule.



  1. I really feel for you Genevieve. I’m struggling too, not as much I think but just to highlight how horrible this country has become since 1984 (when I was 14)….I set out after school to do everything right. I was raised by a struggling solo mum, so obviously I wanted to better my life, and hers. I went to University, and I have two degrees, one in architecture but I have a huge student debt, close to $100,000. I’m taxed 46% on my $58,000 gross salary (33% PAYE plus 3% Kiwisaver plus 10% student loan). So I take home each week around $600. Take off $300 rent (we live in a tiny house in rural Waikato) and $200 week for food and expenses and that leaves $100 week for everything else. My wife works a little part-time and we have four children, one not yet in school. We’re in a trap. We are really struggling to get by and constantly ask for help from family with food and money, just to get by, but we don’t qualify for many benefits, and what we do get barely makes a difference (Working for Family). We’ve even had to go to food banks, and frequently cash out our Kiwisavers accounts to cover food and bills. If I dare go overseas then interest on my loan kicks in to the tune of around $200 week. And we can never afford to buy a house. I really do not see how any government can fix this, unless wages rise and house prices plummet. I think the horse has bolted, and yep, I’ve thought of suicide plenty of times…

  2. There was a time when me and my crew would sit and busk on K road for an hour then get pissed the rest of the weekend.

    There was a time when I was on the student allowance and I would sell pot lunches to the local industrial businesses.

    I mean what what ever eh, to all this MSD discipline.

  3. Thanks for your very honest response to a personal piece.
    I’m sorry to hear you have shared the same frustrations, but it’s also very good to see such an example of the universalities across the way, and to show that financial entrapment, affects people in all kinds of situations.

    Everyone’s grief and frustration comes about differently. For every total tragedy of someone taking themselves out of the picture, there are more who shoulder a further burden. So the stats which are shocking enough, don’t even represent the kind of social emotional bruising’ that moves through communities. The ones who are surviving, – all the time surviving, -it creates stresses that sometimes other people just don’t understand.

    I did some work as a writer with a designated suicide survivor, for a book of works about surviving suicide.

    I have been asked so many times, “have you ever considered suicide” by doctor’s and officials.. because I’ve been clearly having a hard time right? the truth is I haven’t because I have an invested interest in staying alive! I just want everyone’s circumstances to be better!

    But this element of enduring… is a vast untouched part of the problem.. for every shocking painful time we receive the news that someone has suicided, there must be tens / hundreds/ thousands/ who haven’t, but are living in a consistent state of survival, or endurance. Because their potential as humans is capped. Not their potential as millionaires or billionaires, but just …having the kids, hitting the goals, having a standing in community… when these things are made impossible, we have a social problem that does need fixing.

    And I really believe that it helps to remember that as long as there are enough people who can see a problem, then that problem can be solved.

    Kia Kaha MATTYGEE

  4. MATTYGEE Shit that tax level you are paying is obsene!!!!

    When Bull English struts around saying, ‘we ars better off under national’, all anyone can say is ‘bullshitbill.

    I heard on talkback radio today with ‘Mark Sainsbury’ where a tradie and a farmer were saying the same thing.

    The MSM sure covered this heavy tax levy up didnt they?

  5. The reforms of the 1980s introduced cruelty.
    I am a teacher, As such, I have learned to care deeply about other people’s children. I believe that this is why teachers become left-wing and socialistic.
    Most right-wingers in my experience see it as their noble duty to do the very best for their own children only, and to hell with any other children whose parents do not do the same for them. They inoculate themselves by distance and refusal to look more deeply. This callous, socially destructive attitude is still prominent.
    Student debt is a nonsense and a crime: education is a public good.

    You should not be in the situations you have described. The ‘Profit is not a dirty word’ types who supported Rogernomics are now profit-gouging to huge degrees, have created huge inequality in our society, but refuse to see the hell-hole of a society that they are creating.
    I will vote as well as I can to turn this around, but that will achieve little, going by past efforts.

    We need to do more, but how? I myself am not basking in millions of dollars.

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