Friday, June 29, 2012

Cold (and hungry) kids don't learn!

The plight of a family in Papakura living in what from the outside looks better than the little unit I live in is one that should cause us to take close look at ourselves. Many of my English friends comment on the style of housing we have built up over the last 100 years or so. Basically we have a large portion of our housing stock that is draughty, poorly heated and built of somewhat flimsy materials compared to the ‘colder climate’ version of those we see in the UK.
Yes we do have a more benign climate that can be deceiving when you take into account our housing stock. It is not designed to keep a family warm in the winter months. It is unfortunately a major contributor to the poor health of many of our less well-endowed families. Asthma is a huge problem and that has been singled out as an issue affecting far too many children.
Ask yourself; how can children cope in the education system if they are continually kept home (in the cold homes I just described) with chest ailments and other respiratory related illnesses. The Herald described the predicament of the family I mentioned at the start of the article and went on to suggest changes needed in many of our homes.
Even with the subsidy available to owners or landlords (that is another problem too), how many are going to be able to afford the improvements suggested? It is very easy to glibly suggest spending anything up to $3000-$5000, and even more, but when a family takes weeks to save $60 just for an old piece of carpet (which will probably make their asthma issue even worse), then how on earth would such a family be able to come up with the amounts put forward. Even the cost of a $3000 loan is problematic to a huge number of families. No mention was made of the ‘total’ costs; that is the one including interest, so the aim of a warm draught-free, well insulated home, is way beyond so many.
I now go back to my title statement. These kids can not learn. If their health is marginal and they are cold, not to leave out missing out on nutritious food, then we have a problem that is further pushing a significant portion of our people into a situation where they are permanently destined to be poor and unhealthy. They are part of a New Zealand that most of us do not know exists. I could take a more strident view and describe a future whereby those who ‘have,’ become the prey of those who ‘haven’t.’ Look overseas to see the resulting mayhem and suffering. Did I just gear some of you mumbling that such a state already exists?
We have always prided ourselves in ‘giving everyone a fair go.’ Take look behind the doors of many of our ‘cold houses’ and you will see a world, foreign to the NZ psyche. It will take a huge mind-shift on the part of the majority to reverse this growing trend. The ideals of a populace, now long gone--- that of the pre-WW2 Micky Savage variety is needed again, but how many of us have become selfish and uncaring for the plight of others and simply turn our heads and head off to the shopping malls for the next ‘in-thing.’?