Worth reproducing in full:
What a chord Saturday's stories about Waitara Central school principal Sharren Read struck. It was all about the "poverty" that exists among those who go to her school and how she and other committed staff members deal with it. She told it pretty much as it is, which was refreshing in itself, but what a desperately sad story it was as she drew a picture of what was going on.
"Kids come to school simply to be fed. With help from Fonterra and Sanitarium for two days a week, which means the school fundraises to pay for the rest, children are given a free breakfast every morning. Lunch is also available to the neediest ones. "Some probably slept for a few hours amid the noise of partying, boozing and drugs. "They fight for a space to curl up on the mattress they are sharing with four siblings, sharing one urine-soiled blanket. They might get to school on a Monday because a teacher picked them up. Mum was still drunk from the Sunday night binge session."
There was more, much more sordid detail, but that's enough to go on with. You get the picture. Ms Read and other like-minded colleagues do their best to make a difference and they should be congratulated for what they do. Some of Ms Read's quotes are worth further examination. "We have one child that often won't be at school on a Monday and we're now aware it's because mum is coming down from the weekend and needs the kid to be home to help out," she said. It was revealed, which will be startling to many, that some families receive a benefit of about $750 a week. "The problem is the mismanagement of those funds." Let's start with that first quote.
Mum (no mention of a dad, of course) is presumably coming down from partying during the weekend. Booze, drugs and who knows what else is cited as part of the lifestyle. Therefore, the child has to stay home from school to "help out". That is a form of child abuse, nothing less. I wonder when mum was last prosecuted under the truancy laws. Anyone disagree with the answer: never? On to the second, and perhaps most revealing, quote in the article.
Ms Read courageously points the finger exactly where it belongs, at those self-indulgent, greedy parents who shamelessly squander money on themselves, rather than their children. It amounts to theft. Taxpayers gave that money to them to look after the children. As always, it is important to point out that not every recipient of government benefits does that. Some do a fine job under difficult circumstances and work hard to better themselves. The accurate, but unpalatable, message from Ms Read that some parents not only contribute to the "poverty" the children exist in, but are also the main reason for it, will have the apologists and do- gooders scrambling to attack the very notion that the noble oppressed classes could actually be the problem.
But Ms Read and deputy principal Emma Burleigh are the heroes in this debate, so rather than attack them and risk the wrath of right-minded people, no doubt those who know best will abuse columnists such as myself for merely having the temerity to agree with the sentiments expressed. As usual there will be personal observations, insults and much claiming of some self-created moral high ground from which their missives will be fired. The only thing missing will be facts and a willingness to debate the specific issues. Often the outraged letter writers will have a vested interest in prolonging the "poverty" state, but invariably that is never mentioned.
The nanny state is in danger of being replaced by the bully state, where those who don't toe the party line that everything is the state's fault and beneficiaries are victims, quickly become targeted with just one aim - to shut the dissenting voice down. One thing Ms Read said does require a rebuttal is "that shops that allow families with little to take on debt through hire- purchase are making the problem worse". It is not the shops' fault, it is the people who buy the big television sets when they can't afford them that are the problem. It is the same as the shoplifters and their apologists blaming retailers for displaying their goods in such an attractive manner that theft was inevitable. Wrong. For every action, there is a consequence and every one of us makes our decisions and are accountable for them. Simple as that.