Truancy can drive youngsters towards crime

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on whatsapp
Share on email
Truancy is not peculiar to New Zealand. Its challenges educationists in most countries (Getty Images from BBC News)

Indian Newslink Leader July 1, 2022 Digital Edition
Venkat Raman, Auckland, June 28, 2022

An Education Ministry report on truancy makes dull reading.

“What keeps students out of the classroom?” is a question that teachers, headmasters and principals ask everyday but no one seems to have an acceptable answer.

Is it poor teaching, poor parenting or other despicable factors such as bullying or family violence that keep our children skip school?

There could be multiplicity of reasons but truancy is getting out of hand and hence combined efforts of all stakeholders is imperative to tackle the problem.

Tackling school absenteeism

Education Minister Chris Hipkins recently announced a $88 million package for school absenteeism issues alongside a new national attendance and engagement strategy.

Our woes with declining regular school attendance existed pre-pandemic across all schools, decile levels, ethnic groups, and communities.

Auckland based Maxim Institute research found that in 2015, regular school attendance (attending an average of 9 out of 10 school days a fortnight) was at 69.5%, dropping to 59.7% in 2021. To add to the mix, chronic absenteeism (missing more than three days of school a fortnight) has increased between 2015-2021 from 5% to 7.3%. Unfortunately, our nation’s truancy crisis has been bubbling away for years, so our alarming statistics are no surprise.

According to Researcher  ‘Alapasita Teu, a more significant concern is the new aspirational targets of getting 70% of tamariki back into schools by 2024 and 75% by 2026. Government officials said targets had to be “aspirational but also realistic.”

“Translation: We are not too concerned with one-third of learners absent from compulsory education so long as the majority are doing okay. Have we as a country come to be satisfied with mediocre school attendance rates and their impact on our children’s future? Are we as a society content with realistic targets that are negligent, far from ambitious, and failing our children?”

‘Door Knocking’ helps

The New Zealand Police Association says that although truancy is not a criminal offence, there is a connection with young people becoming offenders, or victims of crime.

In the face of justifiable fears that truancy in New Zealand is getting out of control, Police and the youth charity Blue Light have joined forces to tackle the problem.

Blue Light holds the Ministry of Education contract for non-enrolled youth for the Counties Manukau area. Along with local police, it has launched a “door-knock” initiative that is making a real and practical difference to the lives of disadvantaged families in South Auckland, and it’s getting kids back into the classroom.

Following joint “door-knock” operations in 2021, when pairs of local police and Blue Light volunteers visited homes in Manurewa, a South Auckland suburb, 600 children were ‘re-engaged’ with the school system.

Youth engagement officer Sergeant Simon Cornish says that it is almost simple.

“The first time we ran the door-knock programme, I couldn’t believe how much positive response we got. I thought it would be harder, but that door knock is gold,” he says.

Efforts in England

Truancy is not peculiar to New Zealand. Its challenges educationists in most countries.

In England, Children’s Commissioner Dame Rachel de Souza looked at every Council in the country to identify children missing from education.

“I want all children to be welcomed and supported, and feel really positive about being in the classroom, whoever they are, whatever their circumstances. Every child should be in school every day, supported and ready to learn. Every child has the right to a fantastic education,” she said.

She has announced a six point plan to improve school attendance from the start of the new school year in September.

New Zealand will do well to look into the features of that plan.

Share this story

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on whatsapp
Share on email

Related Stories

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.