Primary principals are astounded by the Prime Minister’s latest comments about hunger in schools.
When questioned in Parliament last Wednesday night about hungry school children, John Key said that at all the decile 1-4 schools he had visited, principals and teachers had told him that only “the odd one or two” children did not have lunch.
The principal of Windley School in Porirua East, Rhys McKinley, found the claim laughable.
“The Porirua East area is full of decile one and two schools. The principals often talk about health matters at cluster meetings, and food in bellies is a major issue. We’re not talking about one or two kids,” he said.
“We are fortunate to have organisations run breakfast clubs every morning for approximately 50 to 60 students. On average, each of our 14 classes has three or four students without lunch each day. Five or six kids come to the staffroom for food each day and teachers also give out fruit and muesli bars in class, as well as supplies from KidsCan. In winter, a volunteer group came on Mondays to give soup to up to 20 kids.
“It’s disappointing that the Prime Minister does not understand the extent of the problem affecting our kids.”
Margaret Aikman, who is the principal of Hay Park School in Mt Roskill, said conversations with other principals showed that feeding hungry students was a major issue.
“It’s definitely more than one or two children. Through KidsCan and other food donations we feed between 10-12 children lunch every day and that’s out of just 200 students. In addition we also provide breakfast for between 18 and 30 children, some of whom have not had dinner the night before,” she said.
NZEI President Judith Nowotarski said Mr Key was correct in saying that parents had a responsibility to provide lunch for their children, but in circumstances where they were unable to – for whatever reason – children should not have to go hungry.
“Every teacher knows the problem is far greater than Mr Key will concede, and it needs a governmental solution. Ad hoc donations from businesses and charities will help some children in some schools on some days, but we need to get serious about tackling hunger in schools,” she said.