Friday 14 September 2012

Non summa sequere

There's more bad news for Christchurch, and what's making it worse is that it's not a random seismic event, it's being caused deliberately by the Government. The Ministry of Education has decided that 13 schools in the city and surrounds are to close, with a further 18 merging. All my old schools are on the list: my primary school, Banks Avenue, where, aged 10, I gave a speech at the opening of our new hall, which now looks rather sad; and Shirley Intermediate, which seemed perfectly functional when I went past it recently; and my secondary school, Avonside Girls' High, which it's planned will be subsumed by ChCh Girls' High. Our brother school, Shirley Boys, will be swallowed up by ChCh Boys. To add insult to injury, both of those schools are arch rivals to ours.

When I was at AGHS last month, the Principal (in the job less than a year before the February earthquake, poor thing) told me that it would be two years before she expected a decision on the stability of the land and the future of the school, so she will be reeling, like everyone else connected with the schools. Which is pretty much everybody in those communities. It's a given that in Wellington, you're asked what you do; in Auckland, where you live; but in Christchurch, the first question people ask you is what school you went to. It's not snobbery: it just establishes where you fit in the city, what community you belong to, what your connections are. It's a shorthand.

Apart from the loss of all those years of tradition and identity for the schools themselves, it seems so unfair to me to snatch away what for many students, their teachers and support staff, and all their families too, is the one of the few stable things left in their lives. To expect them to leave all that's familiar and start again, on top of everything else, is harsh. It's taking the cheap route. It's certainly not aspiring to be the best.

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