18 Sep 2020

Funding boost for Pacific learners in regions hit by Covid-19

9:30 am on 18 September 2020

The government have announced their plans to invest $39.7 million over four years to support the educational needs of Pacific learners and families in the regions hit hardest by Covid-19.

Students at Pacific Advance Secondary School. Note only use identifying pictures for stories about PASS - only non-identifiying pictures may be reused.

Photo: RNZ / Claire Eastham-Farrelly

Auckland will be the first to receive the funding boost, as there is a high number of Pacific learners in the region.

The Pacific Education Support Fund has $6.6 million available for 2020/2021. Some $3.5 million of the funding is now open to Auckland Pacific community organisations and Pacific providers to respond to Pacific learners' immediate education and wellbeing needs.

Associate Minister of Education Jenny Salesa explained that the funding aims to improve access to culturally competent support services for attendance and active engagement, as well as on-site learning services and ongoing education and training pathways.

"We know that Pacific people have the lowest earnings and yet many of our Pacific people are essential workers, so this funding will provide better educational support for those families throughout their journey in the education system.

"The resurgence in Auckland has disproportionately affected Pacific communities, so we want to deliver more equitable educational outcomes for Pacific people.

"The investment will also ensure that the connections between Pacific families and places of learning is really strengthened for example connecting Pacific learners and families with services that support their educational needs, and addressing the wellbeing needs of Pacific students who have affected by Covid-19.

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Photo: RNZ Pacific / Sela Jane Hopgood

National List MP Alfred Ngaro said the announcement made by Salesa was well and good, but it lacked specific details on how they would improve the overall qualification rate for Pacific students.

"The interesting thing about the announcement is things like this come out normally during the election period, but this is done under the cover of Covid-19, but we're in an election time," he said.

"Our history and what we will continue to do if we end up in government, we would focus on targeting improvement.

"During our nine years in government, we set a target to improve the NCEA Level 2 for Pasifika students and during that period of time, we increased it from 56 percent to 76 percent, so we would look at focusing on those targets and including them in our policy and development."

"The other area we would also include is around the Pacific Education Support scheme, which we have in place and I note that the Labour party has continued to fund that very same programme that we put in place.

"That's because it does provide culturally competent support services for those Pacific students," Ngaro said.

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Photo: RNZ /Dom Thomas

Ngaro told RNZ that they plan to announce their education policy "very soon".

However, he shared that they plan to establish another 25 new partnership schools by 2023, including some focussed particularly on Māori and Pasifika students.

"It's important because it's a service that is working with the community, providing particular services in the areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, and those subjects we don't have a lot of Pacific students in," he said.

New Conservative Party deputy leader Elliot Ikilei said this is an "election bribe" by the Labour party to stop Pasifika people from leaving them.

"We will bring back the charter school model, like Pacific Advance Senior School, which works so well for our people.

"It also stops the gender ideology that is now being pushed upon primary and secondary school children.

"Combined with our $20,000 tax-free policy, families will have more strength, and our children will be left alone to study without being subjected to psychological harm," Ikilei said.

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Photo: RNZ Pacific / Sela Jane Hopgood

Applications for the Pacific Education Support Fund from the Auckland region close on 16 October.

The fund will open to Wellington, Canterbury, Waikato, Hawke's Bay and Gisborne.

This funding is part of the $80.2m investment in Pacific Education through the COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund, which was announced as part of the Pacific Peoples COVID recovery plan on the 14th of May 2020 and in the Action Plan for Pacific Education 2020-2030.

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