We need to in­vest in our chil­dren

The Tribune (NZ) - - CONVERSATIONS - IAIN LEES-GAL­LOWAY, PALMER­STON NORTH LABOUR MP

My par­ents kept me well fed. They kept me safe and healthy. They didn’t have to move very often so they gave me a sta­ble home to grow up in. They taught me the value of hard work.

My par­ents had the re­sources to give me what I needed to get the best pos­si­ble start in life. Sure, I’ve worked pretty hard for most of my 38 years to achieve my goals, but hav­ing a solid foun­da­tion made sure that ef­fort was worth­while.

While most of what my par­ents gave me was just part of the com­fort­able life that earn­ing a rea­son­able in­come pro­vided back in those days, they made one re­mark­able sac­ri­fice so that I could have the very best op­por­tu­ni­ties in life: They sent me to pri­vate schools.

My par­ents didn’t have con­fi­dence that the ed­u­ca­tion pro­vided by state schools back then was of suf­fi­cient qual­ity to give chil­dren all the op­por­tu­ni­ties they de­served.

That’s de­bate­able, but the point is my par­ents wanted the best for their kids and had good rea­sons to be­lieve that the best was not avail­able to every child in New Zealand. They needed to do some­thing ex­tra.

It wasn’t easy. We were a mid­dle-in­come fam­ily and al­though pri­vate ed­u­ca­tion was within our reach we had to stretch pretty far to grab it. I cer­tainly didn’t have all the things the other kids had at school.

My nick­name at high-school was ‘‘Peas­ant’’ be­cause, you know, I was the poor kid, which is lu­di­crous when you think just how well-off we were. It was within our reach but for most Kiwi fam­i­lies, it isn’t.

That’s why we need world- class state schools that make sure every Kiwi kid does get the ed­u­ca­tion they need to make the most of their tal­ents and lead a suc­cess­ful, ful­fill­ing life.

Here in Palmer­ston North we have great schools. But a prob­lem is loom­ing. Schools are be­ing starved of gov­ern­ment fund­ing and rely more and more on par­ents to fork out ‘‘do­na­tions’’ and to pay for ev­ery­thing from sta­tion­ary to sports. In­creas­ingly, the qual­ity of ed­u­ca­tion that chil­dren can ex­pect de­pends on how much money their par­ents can spend.

That’s not right and it needs to change.

Benjamin Franklin said ‘‘an in­vest­ment in knowl­edge pays the best in­ter­est’’.

Let’s get back to in­vest­ing in all of our chil­dren so that they and New Zealand can en­joy the re­wards of suc­cess.

HAVE YOUR SAY

The Tri­bune wel­comes let­ters. They should not ex­ceed 250 words and must carry a gen­uine name, home ad­dress and day­time phone num­ber. Let­ters may be edited, abridged or omit­ted with­out ex­pla­na­tion. They can be emailed to tri­bune@msl.co.nz or posted to PO Box 3, Palmer­ston North to be re­ceived by 4pm on the Thurs­day prior to pub­li­ca­tion.

Ed­u­ca­tion should be a key pri­or­ity for the Gov­ern­ment.

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