25 Oct 2016

Punjabi student alleges racism at Auckland college

8:49 am on 25 October 2016

A student at an Auckland international college has laid a discrimination complaint, accusing his teacher of taunting and abusing him because he is Punjabi.

University or secondary school students study in a classroom.

Photo: 123RF

But the New Zealand National College says the allegation, and an earlier complaint dismissed by New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA), comes from a group of six students trying to delay leaving the country after being kicked out of the school.

In the complaint, which was laid with the Human Rights Commission earlier this month, the student said he and five friends were often taunted by their teacher in front of their class.

He said the teacher demoralised and used derogatory words towards them in 2014, because they are Punjabi.

"Once I entered the classroom with a necklace having a religious symbol, Khanda on it, my teacher saw the necklace and got irritated - she commented in front of the whole class that she did not like Punjabi people because they wear the sign on their necks," the complaint said.

The student's lawyer, Arunjeev Singh, said his client wrote to the school's principal in October last year asking to move classes because of the discrimination, but nothing was done.

"My client said whenever he was late by 10 or 15 minutes the tutor would not allow him and his friends into class, and that's why they had short attendance record."

Mr Singh said his client was expelled from the school with no notice, and no longer had the student visa he had been granted to study at the school.

He said the student, who is still in the country, had written to the Minister of Immigration asking to complete his studies at a different school.

"The outcome he wants is action against the tutor who discriminated against him, and for the college to be held accountable for not looking at his complaint."

Another of the students laid a complaint against the school to NZQA in 2015, claiming the college's resubmission processes were applied differently to different students.

But the claim was dismissed.

Teacher confident complaint is 'unfounded'

The school said it investigated the complaint internally and the outcome was explained to the complainant.

The school's academic and quality assurance director Zongpei Zhao said the school had good reason to expel the group of six students earlier this year.

"Back then we had a number of concerns about the students ranging, from their behaviour in class, their attendance and the quality of the their assignments - both the timelines in submitting them and plagiarism concerns.

"The college always has strict admission polices but unfortunately sometimes you don't know the students' true motivation until you see them and their behaviour in class, and sadly, in this case, those six or seven students were found to not be genuine," Ms Zhao said.

She said after the NZQA dismissed the complaint and the student apologised to the school.

"The school has followed all procedures and investigated the complaint made against it, we will now do everything we can to assist The Human Rights Commission.

"We have spoken to the teacher the complaint has been made against and she is confident it is unfounded," Ms Zhao said.