Tuesday, August 12, 2008

2008. Hillmorton High School, Christchurch, NZ

"Pa! Why're you throwing my TV out my room?"

"Sherrup! Or else...!"

"Pa! Why're you chucking my bass guitar out my window?"

"'Cause you mus' pass your blerrie exams! You're grounded! No going out! No girlfriend! No job!..." Shocked silence.

"Pa? If I pass my School Certificate, [fifth form] can I have a Rasta-hairstyle and get my ear pierced?"

"NO! Chuck all this junk out! Sit in your room, at your desk! And swot...till you burst!"

That bollocking played out after Leah and I received Jake's rotten school report from Hillmorton High.

It all began happily in SA, where Jake went to Selborne Primary, learnt to play the clarinet and excelled in sports; learning; fun. He'd go to Selborne College, then Rhodes University. All sorted, full-steam success ahead.

We emigrated to Christchurch NZ in 1995.

Luke, our youngest son, went to Sumner kindy. Jake jumped a standard at Sumner Primary, the best school we thought. Wrong. Our first letter, received from a teacher, referred to Leah and I as 'caregivers.' After a term, I wrote to Jake's teacher inquiring why Jake's sloppy classwork and homework were unmarked.

Teacher and principal were angry, and held my complaint against Jake.

The next year, after investigating several schools, we enrolled Jake at a Christian private school. The next day his shrieker-teacher reduced Jake to tears. We enrolled Jake and Luke at Oaklands Primary, where for three years, Jake excelled in sports and academics, and even visited Adelaide, Australia with mates.

Jake went to Hillmorton HS, because his mates went there. Leah and I felt he'd become a good Kiwi by mixing with Maori, Tongans, Samoans, Taiwanese, Chinese, Cambodians, Koreans, Brazilians, Somalis, Egyptians, Pakeha and more of the scores of ethnic groups resident in Christchurch.

Forms 3 and 4 went happily enough with glowing reports and few exams. When I queried exam paucity, I got hostile silence from Jake's teachers. By mid fifth form Jake had done no extra-curricular sports. I complained to the principal who replied, "Sports are not compulsory in NZ schools, and students work in businesses after school and during weekends, so it is difficult for dedicated teachers to offer sport, and teachers don't want to police sport. But working with enthusiasts means it would be a much more positive experience for everyone."

"Ja, well, no fine," I said, "But if Jake is not exploited by Kiwi businesses as cheap labour, why don't your dedicated teachers encourage Jake to do sport?" Silent principal.

So Jake did no sports, but child-minded church children one holiday, picked raspberries one Christmas holiday, bought a ghetto-blaster and TV, found a girlfriend at church, whose mom got Jake a dishwashing job at Papanui Scenic Circles hotel, enabling Jake to buy his bass guitar and have lots of pocket money. (Jake's hourly pay was more than my casual-labourer pay).

Hillmorton HS posted the rotten report one term before Jake's School Certificate exams, without teachers' comments. Ouch!

I complained to the principal: "Leah and I are poorly served! All of Jake's teachers don't mark Jake's classwork and homework. Neither do they check whether Jake has adequate subject learning notes! And Hillmorton HS has no controls, as Jake doesn't hand in work and your teachers don't demand completed work. And your teachers are negligent, dumbing-down Jake! Why are no teachers inspiring Jake? Why are your supposedly dedicated teachers striking one day a week, before School Certificate exams?" Aggressively silent principal.

After Jake's Robben Island swotting routine, Jake did well in the very last School Certificate exams. (Published in slightly different form in SINZASA's Indaba journal, issue 3, 2002).

After a good Sixth Form Certificate year, it got worse the following year 13 when Jake did the University Entrance Bursary and Scholarship Certificate. (Another story). Jake's year 13 at Hillmorton HS had few teacher controls on Jake's assignment work, and absenteeism, but despite a new principal and a poor duty of care by his Hillmorton teachers Jake did pass year 13.

Jake went flatting, read a tertiary Natcoll Diploma in Graphic Design, and worked for years in the Fox and Ferret Gastropub, Riccarton.

We moved to Burnside and enrolled Luke at Burnside High School, where he coped well, enjoying woodwork and music, especially drumming in his Galaxy Stampede band with form 6 school mates. Luke's schooling at Burnside HS was different from Jake's, as Luke did the new National Certificates of Educational Achievement (NCEA).

Copyright Mark JS Esslemont.

See NCEA: National Certificate of Educational Achievement

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