School is back in full swing. The news abounds in stories about rural schools and their annual fundraisers – it’s sobering reading. This week the Taranaki Daily News announces ‘Monster pigs, pimped up possums all for a good cause’ at Uruti School. Last week the Bay of Plenty Times published an article promoting Te Ranga School’s annual fundraising event – a possum and pig hunt.
The picture that accompanies the Te Ranga School story is of a dead possum tied to a car towbar with a beer bottle in its arms. The image is so disrespectful and distasteful it left me cold. It reminded me of other acts of indignity: American soldiers urinating on their victims, vivisectors tattooing the word ‘crap’ on the forehead of a monkey used in experiments. It’s sickening and not what you would expect to be associated with New Zealand primary schools.
REWARDED FOR APATHY
In the past schools have had an event called ‘toss the poss’ a variant on the gumboot-throwing competition. This year students at Te Ranga School can win a prize for guessing the heaviest possum, and the pig hunters can compete in a race (the Killer Hill Pig Run) up a hill with a dead pig on their backs. At Uruti School students are encouraged to dress up dead possums in a grotesque ‘best-dressed possum’ event.
What kind of values are these schools, and the newspapers by association, teaching their students and communities? The Ministry of Education expects schools to foster values of integrity and respect. Their vision is that students will ‘develop values, knowledge and competencies that will enable them to live full and satisfying lives’.
How is tying a dead possum to a towbar, or skinning a possum and putting boxing gloves on it in some macabre boxing pose, respectful? What kind of example are these adults and teachers setting for their young charges?
The whole thing is very disquieting.
SAFE has written twice to the Minister of Education with concerns about these events and their contradictory nature in regards to the values outlined in our national curriculum. Each time the response has been to deflect responsibility back to the individual school’s Board of Trustees.
The Ministry of Education may be turning a blind-eye to the horror but at what cost in the future? These events are surreptitiously teaching young people that animals who are considered pest species can be killed and vilified at random. That violence acts are positive and will be rewarded. Should our young people’s real-life role-models wield knives and guns?
VIOLENCE CULTURALLY ENGRAINED IN NZ?
Why is the Ministry of Education afraid to confront these schools and request they chose more compassionate forms of fundraising? Perhaps they are afraid of a backlash from rural communities? Perhaps politics is getting in the way of ethics? If schools were fundraising using pornography I expect they would be shut down in minutes and quite rightly so – so why is violence acceptable? Our country has an alarming track record when it comes to violence and children. Let’s keep the glorification of violence and loutish trophy pictures out of our schools.
Nichola Kriek, SAFE Education officer