If you are thinking about educating your child in New Zealand, or are considering teaching in the country, you may wish to read the following cautionary blog.
Despite New Zealand’s claim to be a ‘great place to raise kids‘ the country has a fierce reputation for being one of the worst countries in the world for bullying in its schools.(source)
Only yesterday we wrote about New Zealand’s Next Top Model, Danielle Hayes, speaking out about being bullied at school whilst growing up in Kawerau. Read it here. (all links will open in a new window)
Today the NZ Herald is running a story about Michaela Blaauw, a year 9 student at Howick College, Auckland.
Michaela and her father say that she has been so badly bullied at the school their only option is for her to return to live with her Grandparents in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.
According to what Mr Blaauw told the Herald, despite his best efforts, the school admitted there was little they could do to keep her safe whilst she was in their care.
Mr Blaauw said:
“We were threatened that our house was going to be burned down, they are going to follow her home and burn her house down and make sure her brother gets killed and all sorts of ugly things,” Mr Blaauw said.
He said he had had several dealings with the college and the board of trustees trying to resolve the issue. Mr Blaauw claimed that the school “basically admitted that, apart from a teacher following her everywhere, there is not much they can do about keeping her safe”. A suggestion his daughter spend her time in the library wasn’t realistic.
Mr Blaauw said the Education Ministry told him the college was responsible for Michaela’s safety and if she refused to attend, her parents would be arrested by the truancy officer.
Calls to local MP Maurice Williamson, police and Education Minister Anne Tolley did not help so he sent his daughter to South Africa as a last option. “Something needs to be done. The way we feel is that there must be more kids out there that are going through this that can’t speak up.”… read the full story in The Herald
This is not an isolated incident by any means.
Our regular readers may remember the problems that Steve and his partner Angel had when their child was bullied at another Auckland school, Titirangi Rudolf Steiner School. Read A better life for the kids and Bullying in NZ schools – “a harsh lesson”
Steve gave an account of how the school failed to deal effectively with bullying, finding it easier to exclude his daughter rather than deal with a bullying problem. Furthermore, because it was a private school there was no recourse in NZ law to prevent them from doing so. Steve and Angel are still campaigning for changes in legislation.
Teacher bullied at Howick College
Staff in New Zealand schools are also being bullied and suffering violence, and not just from the pupils.
Ray Lewis, a senior economic teacher at Howick College took a case to the Employment Relations Authority after he was sacked in April 2008. He claimed he was repeatedly bullied by other staff. To start with his claim was dismissed but during a successful appeal in April 2010 it emerged that there was more to his story.
Mr Lewis was a whistle-blower who had raised concerns over numerous incidents. He believed he was targeted after he complained to the Prime Minister and other officials.
Among his concerns were the school’s responsibilities for the death of a 17 year old student, Ross Kimpton, during a rugby tour, who fell from a hotel window in London after he’d been drinking. Mr Lewis was also said to have had worries about the NCEA criteria.
The Herald newspaper said that an ERO review would focus on the school and that a previous inquiry recommended intervention from the Secretary of Education:
“…The Herald on Sunday has discovered the Education Ministry employed two lawyers to investigate his claims in secret. The ministry refused to release their report.
The Education Review Office has focused on fall-out from the saga and conflict at the school. The college is expecting an inspection after an inquiry last year recommended the Secretary for Education intervene.
It is understood an adviser has been put on the school board to guide and monitor other members. Employment Court Chief Judge Graeme Colgan ruled Lewis was unjustifiably dismissed and awarded him $10,000 and three months’ backpay, overturning a 2008 Employment Relations Authority ruling.
But Lewis’ bid for reinstatement was rejected after strong opposition by the college board of trustees…” read the full story here
Howick College in cell phones ‘experiment’
Many schools have sensibly banned the use of mobile phones during school time because of the threat of bullying, but not Howick College. In June an Education Ministry pilot programme started in Auckland.
Professor Noeline Wright, of Waikato University, assessed the cellphone pilot programme at Howick College, said schools needed to be extremely vigilant to prevent bullying, theft, and inappropriate texting. However, she encouraged the use of digital devices, “or Swiss Army communication knives”, to prevent schools becoming “islands” of pen and paper use. source
In light of Howick College’s previous history was it really a wise choice of school for the pilot?
Human Right Commission Report on Violence in NZ Schools
The NZ Human Rights Commission recently released a report that identified significant human rights issues in relation to violence in New Zealand Schools.
An organisation called Stop the Violence is just one of many working hard to raise awareness of the issue and to provide support.
Cindy Ciro, New Zealand’s Children’s Commissioner, was once quoted as saying:
“It appears that we do have high levels of physical and emotional bullying in New Zealand schools in comparison to other countries. This is historical. We’ve had this for quite some time in our schools.”
Even the police recognise bullying as a “big problem in New Zealand“.
The ‘harden-up / blame the victim / culture of brutality’ is a contributing factor to the country having one of the worst teen and young person suicide rates in the world, 94 youths committed suicide in New Zealand in 2007.
For further reading about New Zealand’s culture of bullying and violence click here, or click on some of those stories below:
Fairfield College Parents Angry At School Bullying – parents removed children from school