'NZ wants to rebuild, but it's on our backs': Auckland schoolgirl's powerful cry

Author
Simon Collins, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Wed, 20 May 2020, 2:53PM
Aigagalefili Fepulea'i Tapua'i has made a powerful call for equity which has been shared thousands of times on social media. (Photo / Supplied)
Aigagalefili Fepulea'i Tapua'i has made a powerful call for equity which has been shared thousands of times on social media. (Photo / Supplied)

'NZ wants to rebuild, but it's on our backs': Auckland schoolgirl's powerful cry

Author
Simon Collins, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Wed, 20 May 2020, 2:53PM

A South Auckland schoolgirl's powerful cry for equity is getting thousands of shares on social media.

Aigagalefili Fepulea'i Tapua'i, head girl of Aorere College, wrote on Instagram on Monday that the college's first day back after the Covid-19 lockdown was marked by students leaving so they could work to support parents who had lost their jobs.

"Our decile 2 sch opened today. spent it watching ppl swap leavers notices for CV's cuz money is low & mouths gotta eat," she wrote.

Addressing readers in richer parts of town, she wrote: "While u work from home on zoom, we have the most essential workers. packing ur shopping, driving the buses, cleaning ur classrooms.

"It's ironic. how Pasifika have one of the lowest infection rates but were put at the most risk.

"It's ironic. turned on the TV to hear our domestic violence rates rose, then 5 mins later heard NZQA won't lower credits cuz the time we have is enough. like any kid wants to write essays when they have to deal with being beat up. It's ironic. they want us to earn credits but they never give us ours when it's due.

"It's ironic. poorer brown kids living the life of the hard knocks, while white girls from Epsom are making racist tiktoks.

"It's ironic. & no matter how hard i keep my head in these books, i'm reminded there are things only the streets can teach you. if education is key, why do our locks keep changing? if knowledge is power, why does it come at a price we cant afford?

"Every problem of society taught in class can be found in the hood. don't need a degree for empathy. it's ironic. how NZ wants to rebuild, but it's on our backs."

Her post has been shared more than 5500 times on Instagram and was picked up by Green MP Chloe Swarbrick and circulated on Facebook, where it gained a further 1700 shares.

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Posted by Chlöe Swarbrick on Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Tapua'i commented on her own Facebook page that "instead of praising me alone", Swarbrick should "think of people like us, in situations like ours".

my vents from insta made it to facebook but in all seriousness, your attention should go to our community as a whole...

Posted by Aigagalefili Fepulea'i Tapua'i on Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Tapua'i won last year's NZ Storytellers high school speech competition with another powerful speech called Waiting for water.

She co-founded 4 Tha Kulture, a South Auckland group "advocating against climate change through a lens that considers minorities", and spoke at a School Strike 4 Climate protest in Auckland's Aotea Square in September.

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Just before the lockdown she was selected to attend a Global Young Leaders conference in the United States next month.

Aorere College principal Greg Pierce said he was concerned that some students have not returned to school, possibly because some have had to work to support their families.

"Our attendance rate has been 70 to 80 per cent in the first two days," he said.

"My full focus is on attendance, engagement of students, supporting staff and enabling digital access; still at this stage only 74 students have had access to the approximately 400 Chromebooks ordered."

A Government initiative to supply free computers to school students without suitable devices at home was plagued by delays caused by incorrect addresses and labelling.

The NZ Qualifications Authority (NZQA) has delayed the start of National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA) exams by 10 days and is still considering whether to offer a "special credit inclusion" process to adjust NCEA results for students badly affected by the lockdown.