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Salient: Victoria University Students' Paper. Vol. 28, No. 11. 1965.

Colombo Plan Training: Students Criticise Worth

Colombo Plan Training: Students Criticise Worth

Some Colombo Plan students are dissatisfied with the way in which the New Zealand Government is carrying out training, education and payment of overseas students.

One student told Salient that overseas students in offices were put on routine clerical work and had to fight to get time off for study.

A number of students have pointed out that workers in the same fields as themselves and on comparable work earn about £25 per week.

Overseas students are paid an allowance, and their board and travelling expenses are paid by the New Zealand Government.

Office and Factory

The criticisms made by the students interviewed by Salient applied not to students sent here for university training, but rather to those who come for administrative or technical instruction.

Two students who had graduated from a three-year engineering diploma course in their own country complained that their postgraduate study in New Zealand involved performing menial tasks alongside young apprentices.

They said they would have been better trained and better paid if they had stayed at home.

One claimed that New Zealand did not have the facilities to train all the specialist students that came out.

One student said that six Colombo Plan students had asked the Department of External Affairs to send them home at the end of 1964.

They had complained that they were wasting their time in New Zealand and not getting a worth-while training.

One Returns

The Department allowed one; student to return, but the other five were still in New Zealand. Nine months later, it would seem that these five are still dissatisfied.

Another student came to New Zealand as a post-graduate technical teacher. He was in a high school throughout 1964 as a student woodwork teacher.

In November of that year he was placed as a carpenter with a building contractor. He said he had no say in this.

He claimed he received no wages whatsoever for working full-time for five weeks. A Christmas present of £10 had been given to him by the builder.

In May and June of this year he was sent to work in three different factories. There he spent six weeks doing ordinary manual labour which, he said, had little bearing on his training as a teacher. Again he worked without wages.

Now Learning

When interviewed, this student was working with some apprentice carpenters on a Government building contract. He said he had no objection to this work — even though it was unpaid—as he felt he was now learning something worthwhile.

Among the students interviewed was one who came to New Zealand in 1963 and was sent to a provincial town in the North Island to work in a Government department.

He said he was told his departmental work was his practical work and that he was expected to study at night.

He was given routine clerical work and had had a row with his student officer over this, arguing that he understood he had come to New Zealand to study.

No Holidays

At first he had not been allocated any holidays. After some argument, he was granted two weeks a year, the holiday period allocated to New Zealanders.

He asked for two hours a day for university study, he said, but this had not been granted. A similar request for one hour a day had also been refused.

He said he passed his professional exams after studying every night after work, and in 1964 was transferred to Wellington, where he continued to fight for study time.

He eventually had been granted four hours a week to study at Victoria and had passed two units (both of which were directly relevant to his work) at the end of the year, as well as his professional exams, for which he had continued to study.

He said public servants doing exactly the same work as himself were paid about £20 a week. He was receiving his weekly allowance of £8/15/-.

At the beginning of 1964 he had asked for either a public servant's salary or an increased allowance, as he wished to be paid in accordance with his work.

At home he was paid about £17, a high wage in his country.

Rise Promised

About the middle of 1964 he had been notified by the External Affairs Department that he would be paid the minimum wage in future. He was still waiting, despite continued reminders to the department of its promise.

At that time he was granted three weeks annual holiday and two weeks study leave.

All the talk and arguing over the last 21 years had created "nothing but bitterness and hatred on both sides," he said.

Pressure on students to live above the level of their Plan allowances were cited by one student.

He told of an Auckland student who found this pressure so intense that he became a freezing worker to supplement his income. Because he took absence without leave from his departmental job, this student was forced to stay a further year in New Zealand.

Political Capital

"The Government is making political capital out of the Colombo Plan," one student claimed.

"It gains valuable publicity by bringing out a fixed quota of students from each country and then fails to give them the benefits students expect from three or five years of study," he said.

He emphasised that he did not mean that this happened to all students. But he said that for some the Government "shows them the scenic spots, gives them a certificate for doing comparatively nothing and sends them home again."