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Protest Over Cuts To Night Classes

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

By Kate Chapman of NZPA

Wellington, Oct 20 NZPA - About 70 people, including 20 Opposition MPs, protested outside Parliament today over the cuts to adult and community education (ACE) funding.

In May's budget, funding for adult community education was cut from $16 million to $3 million, with the Government saying it paid for hobby courses.

There has been intense criticism of the cut, with opponents saying courses will be slashed.

Education Minister Anne Tolley has repeatedly said that with New Zealand in a recession the Government is focusing on foundation skills such as literacy, numeracy and language courses.

Earlier this month the Tertiary Education Commission released figures 50 schools will provide courses next year, down from 212 currently.

At today's protest a petition with 53,344 signatures was presented.

Community Learning Association Through Schools president Maryke Fordyce said there was huge unrest in the community and the protest was bringing a clear signal that people were unhappy.

More people would be unhappy when they found out next year that their classes had been cancelled.

The Government needed to remember that the people who signed the petition were voters, she said.

"We're deeply worried about how three years from now adult and community is going to look in this country," Mrs Fordyce said.

The Government should let the sector decide where savings could be made, she said.

"I don't believe that the $16 million from (night) schools is going to completely drive the country into the ground.

"Let the sector decide how it is going to be allocated."

Ms Tolley remained strong on her position today.

"We've said all along we're still putting $124m into adult and community education, there just isn't the money to fund hobby courses.

"I understand people are upset but that's the reality," she told reporters.

She said the Opposition was behind the protest.

"This is a Labour Party run campaign and I'm sure they will continue to run it.

Labour leader Phil Goff said the protest was to show the Government "what it should know for itself".

Community night classes were a tradition in New Zealand, he said.

"War didn't destroy that, depression didn't destroy that, but Anne Tolley and the National Government are doing that."

ACE education provided "many times the value" of the monetary cost, he said.

"We will not give up on New Zealanders having access to the life long learning."

Post Primary Teachers Association president Kate Gainsford said the cuts took away the option for "second chance education" and at the same time the Government was "squandering money" on youth bootcamps and sending the SAS back to Afghanistan.

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