Sunday, September 9, 2007

2007. Christchurch NZ, Schooling and Settling In, 1995

< 1995. Esslemont Brothers near Castle Rock, NZ.

NZ had few special-schools for special-needs and behaviour-needs pupils. NZ pupils were called students. Parents with difficult kids mostly enrolled their kids in ordinary schools, resulting in cerebral-palsied students, blind students, retarded students, physically abused students, and special-needs and behaviour-needs students being placed in mainstream classes, with overworked teachers (untrained to cope with special-needs) being forced to teach them. No win situation. Teachers and students sometimes rejected special-needs students. Some schools refused to have them. Other schools accepted more than their fair share.

Teacher-aides assisted teachers with special-needs and behaviour- needs students. Teacher -aides were paid low wages for contracted hours in classrooms. They weren't paid for holidays, nor for overtime, including travel, lesson prep, meetings, written reports, (all of which Leah later did as a teacher-aide).

We found schools in different areas, or even in the same area, like Sumner, had different standards. Christchurch was oversupplied with teachers and their average age was over forty. Teacher quality, training, attitudes and values varied. Teacher trainers trained new teachers, but few graduates found jobs in Christchurch, and sought work elsewhere.

Schools were graded decile 1 to decile 10: decile 1 being a poor socio-economic area. A school Board of Trustees (BOT) served as school employer and consisted mainly of parents. BOTs varied in influencing resources and staffing. In 1995, Kiwi classrooms we saw were better equipped than SA classrooms. Kiwi schools we saw had Aussie adventure-equipment erected in wood-chipped play areas. Jake and Luke enjoyed similar Aussie play-equipment in parks. Classrooms had playground equipment for use during breaks: sets of cricket equipment, balls, hoops, bats.

In June 1995, when we settled in Sumner, the SA death penalty was abolished.

The plastic casing of one of my Starkey hearing-aids cracked. I posted the hearing-aid to Australia for repairs. For the first time in twelve years, I accepted I was permanently deaf.

Jake and Luke got asthma, as we were used to sleeping with house windows open in SA. Initially we were unaware of Christchurch's asthma causing mice and birch pollen, and smoke-pollution from vehicles and home fires. We bought inhalers for our boys, and slept with closed windows.

Locals parked secondhand "For Sale" cars on roadsides. Had we known about that and car auctions, we'd've saved money on car purchase. We looked for bargains at garage sales and school / church fetes. Our belongings arrived from Port Elizabeth. Jake and Luke enjoyed unpacking their toys.

We weren't a financial burden on the NZ state, as we were forbidden to apply for the dole during our first residence year. Later the regulation changed to two years' residence. Initially we were unaware of the state Family Assistance benefit. When we applied, we received several months' back pay. To survive, Leah and I either had to find paid work, or live off our SA earned, exchange-rate reduced, settling -in funds. We paid our way, and no Kiwi refused our foreign earned money.

In SA, crime and killing continued. Kiwi tourists were mugged. Democracy, the new constitution, new bill of rights, Mandela-magic and winning the 1995 rugby World Cup was supposed to solve all SA's ills. Naidoo's Reconstruction (Perestroika) and Development fizzled out. De Klerk left the Government of National Unity, and the exchange rate worsened for emigrants.

Copyright Mark JS Esslemont.

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