5 Nov 2013

Senior Niuean high school students want more government support in education

6:19 pm on 5 November 2013

Senior high school students in Niue are appealing to the New Zealand government to give more support and funding to the education sector.

A group of Year 12 and Year 13 students from Niue High School met with the New Zealand Governor General, Lieutenant General Sir Jerry Mateparae, for a question and answer session on his recent trip to Niue.

Beverley Tse was there and discovered education was one of the most topical issues.

"NINA NEMAIA: You may not be intellectual like with your numbers or writing or anything, but you may be intellectual with hands or creativity. We're not given that opportunity to help expand our talents. So that would be one thing that I would want New Zealand to help us with. We don't have practical classes. We only have theory."

Nina Nemaia, an aspiring engineer, says more diversity is needed in the subjects offered at school. Her classmate JinNam Hopotoa concurs. He also says offering more tertiary scholarships to study in New Zealand could encourage students to further their education.

NINA NEMAIA: Because at the moment Niue only has like five awards available. So it's not as much as, you know... Only five people will be going overseas every year.

The Premier of Niue, Toke Talagi, says the students are lucky to be offered scholarships and says in comparison with larger countries, only a small portion miss out.

TOKE TALAGI: What we've got to be certain of is that the people who are selected to go out will return and help our people here. It is no different from in my time when only ten people were selected to go to New Zealand for education out of the 30 or 40 people that we had in the class.

The Head girl of Niue High School, Liline Morrissey, says many Niuean students who complete degrees in New Zealand want to return, but there is little incentive to do so. She hopes there will be more job creation in areas with a shortage of specialist skills.

LILINE MORRISSEY: In New Zealand the pay is way better and getting a job's way easier, because here it's not really that easy. And it's kind of like you need to know people. If you don't really have any contacts it's really hard to get a job.

New Zealand's High Commissioner to Niue, Mark Blumsky, says the New Zealand government has spent tens of thousands of dollars on improving teaching facilities in Niue and providing better teachers and resources to lift the standard of education. But he doesn't think it's cost effective to introduce more subject options.

MARK BLUMSKY: There aren't that many students in the high school. I think the high school has a total role of about 200/250. That's from third form to seventh form. So the classes are very small. So if you start talking about widening the class options, then you're going to have to bring teachers in that are specialists, they'll probably have a class of three or four students. That doesn't make a lot of sense economically to do that.

Mark Blumsky says New Zealand gives Niue more than US$11.5 million of funding annually and says it's up to Niue how much of that is spent on education.