Toast – it fills hungry tummies, and in this house there are lots of them.

“There’s twelve of us here, legally only nine of us are supposed to be here and it’s a three-bedroom house.”

These are the words of a Maraenui woman who lives in a state house.

She wants to remain anonymous because she worries about the repercussions of overcrowding the home.

But it’s something she will risk so her mokopuna and nephews can continue attending school – and she knows what would happen if she didn’t.

“They probably wouldn’t be going to school, it’s no good trying to put them in a school when they’ve got nowhere to sleep in the first place.”

Unfortunately that’s the reality for many New Zealand schoolchildren.

The woman allows the children to live with her so they can stay at the same school and their education is not interrupted.

But not every child gets that opportunity, proven by the roll at Kimi Ora Community School in Flaxmere which has a high rate of transience.

Principal Matt O’Dowda says there’s a “20 to 25% transitory role each year… lose and gain 40 to 50 kids each year.”

He says many of the families are living in poorly insulated, wet and damp housing.

“We had five or six families last year who moved to Gisborne because the cost of housing here became too high.”

And it’s affecting their education.

“We’ve had kids by the time they’re eight who have been to five or six schools. It takes them five or six weeks to really settle into school so if you’re losing that much time, four or five times within the first four or five years of school you’re going to really struggle to keep up with where your peers are.”

At Kimi Ora the staff have a “no excuses” policy and encourage the kids to settle back into school quickly by making them feel as comfortable and confident as possible.

Mr O’Dowda knows that school is the one thing he can offer, but the transience?

“How can we stop it? Can we fix the social housing around here?”

He says there are kids who come to school tired “and they’re tired because they’ve got 14 or 15 people living in a small house”.

“You’ve got four or five kids who sleep in the lounge… you’ve got five-year-old kids who go to sleep when the last person goes to bed.”

Community Advocate, Michelle Pyke says it is contributing to people developing mental health issues.

“The stress on children, you’ve got adults that are trying to prep kids to get them to school – but from a car, from a tent, how do you do it?”

And the woman who has opened her home up to the children – so their schooling continues uninterrupted – knows a sense of security is important – “a bed, a house, and food of course”.

Equally important is the chance of a decent education – something that more children are missing out on due to the lack of stable housing.

Source: NZ Herald


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