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Education and Society Letter

By Catherineclaire May 07, 2013 1401 Words
Inequalities in education, child poverty in New Zealand
Catherine Hawes, 2013000093

Assignment two: Letter
Education and Society BTECE 5:02
Due 19th April 2013

1176 Words

19th April 2013

Ms Student Teacher
Eastern Institute of Technology
Private Bag 1201
Hawkes Bay Mail Centre
Napier 4142

Dear Ms Student Teacher
I’m writing to let you know what I’ve been learned about child poverty at EIT this term. Did you know that, in New Zealand child poverty could be compared to a socially transmitted disease and for many children and young people this is the harsh reality of their life! Children and young people form a distinctive group that are present in all social and economic classes and come from many cultural backgrounds. New Zealand aims to be a country that values children and yet the gap between the very wealthy and the extremely poor grows wider every day and the chance to wipe out poverty has become too hard and gets swept under the rug every day and our government creates policies designed to pacify society’s conscience. Recently I read a very interesting book called Children of the Poor by Mike Moore, which gave the child’s perspective about what poverty means to them on a daily basis. I found this to be an accurate description of how many of them probably feel and it makes me sad, helpless and wondering what I can do as a student teacher. Have a read and write back about what you think. Lesley Max (p.17-18) cited Doctor Zoe During, a former senior medical officer of health in south Auckland, explains that for children poverty means ‘ being dirty, smelly, with recurrent skin infections, untreated impetigo, scabies and lice, with chronically discharging ears, runny noses, bronchitis and attacks of gastroenteritis. It means no toys and often being left home alone. Bedtime is when you fall asleep watching television. Meals are disorganised and inadequate. There is no toothpaste or toothbrush, one dirty towel to share, unclean toilet and maybe even human or animal faeces lying around. It means being in trouble at school because of aggression issues or being ignored because of extreme shyness (Moore, 1996).’ Children living in New Zealand should have the right to a standard of living that allows them to live healthy lives free from hardship, able to achieve their full potential education wise and be confident and capable to participate in society fully. But growing up with poverty impacts on children and young people, it erodes their quality of life, limits their future opportunities, exposes them to material disadvantages, greater risk of poor health and poor social outcomes that often extend into adulthood (Egan-Bitran. 2010).

From what I’ve learned child poverty seems to be an ugly by-product of New Zealand’s global economy agenda and since we were young adults, 1984 onwards, both the Labour and National governments have worked towards opening up our country’s economic market to overseas investors, and for a select few this has been hugely beneficial but to the majority of Aotearoa’s people this means jobs have disappeared or wages have dropped, mainly due to manufacturing moving off shore as part of the cost cutting and profit making measures (Adams and Hamer. 2005. p.52). This is where the cycle starts, families who worked in the factories and other low skill jobs have become unemployed and competition for new jobs are fierce. Many have had to go on benefits to survive and as the cost of living, schools and healthcare rise, huge portions of that income go to the pay bills and putting healthy food on the table becomes harder and harder. To counter measure introduced by the government was free healthcare for under-fives. The aim was to make good quality care available to all children regardless of which socio-economic group they belong too and break the cycle of bad health in babies, toddlers and young children. Unfortunately this has not broken the cycle of illnesses as living conditions and poor food are directly linked to chronic bad health in children. It never occurred to me until I started my degree that the education system is cultural predisposed to the dominate ideologies. John Clark wrote early childhood centres and schools are not socially neutral institutions. Their aims, mission, ethos, culture and practices are guided by society’s ideologies. This means that centres and schools are shaped by a particular set of ideas, beliefs and values that are dominate in society at the time and these views are of the dominate culture (Adams, Openshaw and Hamer. 2005. p.130). Many low income families recognise that their children need a good head start on the education ladder for their future learning and employment opportunities but due to their lack of liquid assets and the areas they live in, don’t have the opportunity of going to a high decile school and with new zoning bylaws this means that these schools can pick and choose what type of children they want to teach. Bourdieu says that schools and early childhood centres reproduce the existing patterns of social distinction, particularly the structural inequalities that exist between class groups in New Zealand’s capitalist society and children that fit within this ideal are rewarded for their ‘correct’ habits and the children that don’t fit are ignored and classed as the wrong sort of people for society (Adams et al. 2005. p.331). As future teachers we need to be aware of how poverty can have a huge impact on the way children react and interact in early learning centres, to be aware that our education, values and beliefs that may not match up to theirs. We need to as human beings to acknowledge that outside our centres children go without breakfast, may be cold because they do not have enough clothes or have to deal with the trauma of fights and arguments happening at home that can cause them to shut down and be unable to deal with anything or anyone new, sometimes it can be the cultural clash of the socio-economic differences between the child, teaching staff and peers, that make communication, building relationships and cultural acceptance confusing and disorientating.

In an article for the New Zealand Herald (6th March 2013), Alan Freeth writes that New Zealand communities cannot sit on their hands while children go hungry, uneducated, abused and neglected, and that only the most ignorant uncivilised and primitive societies fail to look after their children. And, given some the statistics about children in our country, New Zealand appears to be failing dramatically. It goes on to say that unless we, as a nation, address the issue of child poverty - their health, education, poverty and well-being will cost the country in the long term especially our society, our nation and our souls. So as teachers we are on the front line of society’s education system and we can choose to believe the mainstream ideas about poverty or we can confront these issues within our working environment and make many small changes that will benefit children in the future. I find it hard to reconcile our country’s acceptance of child poverty. New Zealand is not a third world country so why is it accepted by many that poverty is here and for a balanced society a few people are at the top, rich and materially wealthy, and many people are at the bottom, cold hungry and trapped. How can our government and education system continually perpetuate this symbolic violence that keeps the cycle of child poverty repeating? I feel passionate about children living with poverty and I’d love to hear what you have to say about this and I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours faithfully

Catherine Hawes
BTECE Student

Adams, P., Openshaw, R., & Hamer, J. (2005). Education and society in Aotearoa New Zealand. (2nd ed.). Albany, New Zealand: Nelson Cengage Learning. Egan-Bitran, M. (2010). This is how I see it: Children, young people and young adult’s views and expressions of poverty. Children’s Commissioner. Retrieved from

Freeth, A. (2013, March 6). The sad business of child poverty. The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved from Moore, M. (1996). Children of the poor: How poverty could destroy New Zealand’s future. Christchurch, New Zealand: Canterbury University Press.

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