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Saturday, April 13, 2013

Education is Not for $ale


What could possibly come next on the education agenda of the National Government?

Lesson plans sponsored by corporations? "Good morning pupils. Today's recorder lesson is brought to you by iTunes, where all your favourite songs are just a click away."

Art supplies provided by Novopay? "Sorry children you will have to make do painting using blue  only today. The schools art supplier mucked up the orders and sent all the other colours to a school in Invercargill. But don't worry because they've got debt collectors to send threatening letters to the principal."

Charter schools run by SkyCity Casino? You can just see Bill English announcing in Parliament without a hint of irony,"In recognition of the need for the Government to balance the books we have made an agreement with SkyCity for them to take over the operations of five Auckland schools. We all know that SkyCity have significant experience watching over children."

It's funny but it isn't, because this Government is like a child. It doesn't know when to stop and it still needs to learn right from wrong. Just look at how it behaved during the Christchurch school closures. Some Education Ministry flunky was probably thinking, "Well we all know teachers like giving out gold stars and using visual teaching methods, I know how we can organise the principals when we make the announcement..."

That's why teachers are right to be fighting the Nats and their bumbling Education Minister Hekia Parata every step of the way. The protests have already had an effect. Just as teachers saw off increased class sizes last year this year it will be vital that teachers lead the way again.

Teachers' strikes are like a flare in the night sky. For a short moment they illuminate the political landscape. In the dark no one notices the Government stealing the right of children to a free, good quality education. Once that flare is lit all of society can see that this battle is about teachers standing up for people before profit.

Of course all of the National Government's plans to privatise education first require the breakup of the teachers' unions. Just as any privatisation of the Auckland ports requires the defeat of Maritime Union Local 13.

Teachers are in a unique position however. Last year unionists had a hard time working to get the public on the side of the wharfies. Telling your mum that you supported the wharfies strikes before Christmas 2011 was like saying you were delighted Santa's sleigh was broken down just past Kumeu.

But with teachers when you tell your workmates, "I support the strikes", you don't get "Oh but aren't they so greedy and I heard they threatened to punch a scab". You get a, "So do I mate. If I had to look after my little brats six hours a day, five days a week with twenty other of their mates bouncing off the ceiling I'd want a day off and a pay rise as well."

Which gives the teachers' unions a little bit of responsibility. We all know this Government's real players (Key, Brownlee and Joyce) and their mates running the corporations have sought to take on the unions one at a time. First they smashed the actors' campaign for decent wages on the Hobbit. Then they blindsided the Affco meatworkers. After that came the Auckland wharfies. Now they want to break the teachers' unions.

So teachers must strike and win not just for themselves but also to show the way for all those other workers angry at the Government but unsure of what to do, DoC workers losing their jobs, 18 and 19 year olds facing youth rates at Pak'N'Save, West Coast miners watching their community be decimated because of the greed and incompetence of Solid Energy's CEO. If strikes and protests can spread from the schools to other workplaces then instead of losing one by one all of us can win together.

The media of course will be looking for any reason to criticise strikes. They'll send journos into the suburbs to find nine year olds at home without their parents and run stories about "irresponsibility". But for workers, strikes are our best bet when it comes to defending our rights and when teachers stand up and say, "Education is not for sale" then people up and down this country will go, "I hope the teachers give the Nats a bloody good hiding".

There are hundreds of thousands of people out there who are scared of this Government and worried about their future. Disabled people are being squeezed off benefits, young families are struggling to pay exorbitant rents and mortgages and everyone is worried about losing their job. But things aren't going to get better until we get rid of the Nats and that is not going to happen until fear turns to anger and we unite together to throw John Key and his mates out of the Beehive and say 'Hit the road Jack!"

Kia kaha, kia toa, kia manawanui to the teachers!

-Socialist Aotearoa



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