Sunday, June 28, 2009

Thousands of Pacific children 'miss out on school'

By Pippa Brown: Pacific Media Centre

Thousands of Pacific children – possibly up to 5000 – may be missing out on education in New Zealand because their parents are overstayers, says a Pasifika school trustee spokesperson.

“It is an issue that affects not just Pacific students, but all students whose parents are non-residents, no matter where they come from,” says Ben Taufua from the Pacific Island School Trustees Aotearoa.

A select committee looking into New Zealand’s relationship with Pacific Island countries has been told hundreds of Pacific children were missing out on education, according to Radio New Zealand.

Ben Taufua from the Pacific Island School Trustees Aotearoa, told the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee in Manukau City that granting overstayers amnesty might help.

Taufua later told the Pacific Media Centre that the figures were probably much higher and New Zealand needed to take responsibility otherwise thousands of children may end up without access to health or education.

He says these children have lost their voice because they have been tied into the immigration status.

“Their rights have been breached.

“It is not their choice they end up being here,” he says.

Taufua said although Dr Jonathan Coleman, who has both the Minister of Immigration and Associate Minister of Health portfolios, said on Radio New Zealand that every child had access to education, he had failed to say that every child in New Zealand can access free education and free health.

Huge problem
“It is huge,” says Taufua. “We are talking about a generation of people without education and who when they grow up might still be in our system.

“To do nothing about this issue is both immoral and criminal,” says Taufua.

He says New Zealand needs to honour its signature to the Ottawa Charter and give children free education and health.

“The Labour government initiated a law that says children born in New Zealand of non-residential parents are not automatically New Zealanders,” says Taufua. He wants to see this changed.

Taufua told the committee that they must deal with immigration issues that affect these people as their children are suffering.

According to Radio New Zealand, Makelita Kolo, from the Tongan community, said the children rarely got health care and never used their own name when they saw a doctor. Select committee chairman John Hayes responded by saying the amnesty call was beyond the scope of the committee’s brief.

Pippa Brown is an AUT Graduate Diploma in Journalism student on internship with the Pacific Media Centre.

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