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Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Vol 35 no. 16. 1972

The Trouble with Children

page 15

The Trouble with Children

This year one percent of the New Zealand population studies at a university. An analysis of this one percent tells us that twice as many men as women continue their education university-level. It seems that up to university entrance girls leave school as well qualified as boys. The fall off of girls can be ascribed to various surface factors such as no money or no interest in children, all of which are aspects of the particular roles women have traditionally had in New Zealand society. The creche sees itself as one of the more important social and political levers for making university-education as a community-service some what less of a fiction, because we cater for the children of communists and Truth reporters, unmarried fathers, and mothers of four, gripmen and professors' spouses.

The creche issue is that because of lack of premises and with no provision being made for these in the future university planning a criterion has been adopted to exclude certain students. In this way parent students have been created a minority. As a result only those from materially secure or academically inclined backgrounds can sumount the difficulties imposed by the combination of the necessity to provide material security while seeking further qualifications, education and enlightenment. If no improvement occurs the others will be forced to seek alternatives or less qualified types of education. Our affiliation to the Student Association must be seen as an attempt to include the single male school leaving optimum type student in the larger community of people who are iust that little, bit closer to birth or death.

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The Past

The association holds to the philosophy that the welfare of students is the responsibility of the state." President Peter Cullen has offered a clear pathway for action towards a solution of the creche's present problem with this statement. But is the creche really as limited in concept as the Student's president would present it? Is this issue a case of pressure of an already privileged minority? Is it really no more than a welfare service in the same category as medical care, counselling and accommodation?

If the creche club had taken Cullen's advice in 1967 and waited for government policy and social attitudes to change, child care facilities could be still just a principle and a functioning fact. Enquiries and visits by outside institutions and organisations show time and again that the creche's very presence is a catalyst towards change in the com munity. The creche was a precedent and can be pointed to as a functioning community responsibility.

In 1967 then, the creche was affiliated to the Student Association and operated from the Plunket Rooms in Kelburn. In 1968 with no premises, the creche made submissions to the council to be incorporated into the permanent structure of the university either as part of Student Union facilities, or as part of Student Welfare, or as a completely separate independent area of concern. Along with other organisations the Student organisation provided the Council with writ ten support for the creche association. The Council noted that the Student Association offered to pay $125 towards alterations in the Boyd Wilson Pavillion if our application to use these premises on a conditional basis was successful. This grant was never uplifted.

The Council decided a creche was a necessary facility in 1969 and the University provided, a house and paid for alterations. It pays for cleaning, insurance, electricity and telephone plus the salary of one of the supervisee. The balance needed for wages, equipment and repairs is coughed up by the students using the facility. Because its standard and availability is dependent upon the students' ability to pay for it the creche is therefore not comparable with other welfare services. So far the $200 grant from the Student Association is to the best of my knowledge "held in hand" by the Welfare Services because the creche cannot afford to spend it as it has to be continually solvent during the periods when incoming fees lag behind costs.

While the Student Association was working on its philosophy and disaffiliated the creche in 1969 at a regular executive meeting the creche association handled staff-appointments, finance allocation of hours of use, collecting of equipment and all the teething problems associated with a precedent facility in the university or for that matter the community. Social workers and conference organisers asked for our cooperation and Child Welfare was confronted with a new type of child care.

In 1971 the Student Association helped in making submissions to Council and we got promised an advisory committee and a permanent full time supervisor. The realities were that shortage of university funds prohibited the appointment of a full time supervisor and we were told that supplementary premises were unlikely to be available in the next 3-4 years. That's where it rests. The Student Association bowed out leaving us with their thoughful philosophy and for better or worse the creche and its future concepts are now part of Student Welfare;

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Desirable Size

Out of the 5411 students enrolled intra-murally at Vic 1603 are women. The marriage-rate for urban women under 30 (which is the age-group most prevalent at university) is 55%, which would indicate that 882 women students could be married. If we take these 882 women as a statistically valid sample of the total population of married urban women 69% of them or 608 would have preschool children. Because the mother-child-ratio at the creche is 1,2 we come at a total of 729 children.

Dr. Geiringer in a talk given at the recent population conference at university pointed out that only half of all children born in Wellington hospital were likely to be planned. Now women-students probably do not deliberately plan children as they know this would interfere with the whole point of going to university, which obviously is to study and get a degree. So if we roughly translate this in Vic terms there may be 364 children involved in decisions made by students to continue their studies or drop out or to restrict oneself to part-time study. This of course docs not clarify the position of students who want to keep their illegitimate children and does not answer any moral niceties as to whether students ought to live in celibacy.

That the Student Welfare has never made any attempt at an estimate of a desirable size of the creche is understandable. The philosophy behind government welfare policy is to provide services where the need is demonstrated clearly. It is up to political, social and charitable organisations such as the Students' Association to give evidence of the need and press for improvement and establishment of facilities.

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The Future

Given the present inadequate facilities parents can on the average expect to have two hours a day for attending lectures, reading in closed reserve and getting books out of die library. The additional 25 children we know will come next year would bring this average down to one hour and a half. Naturally direct participation in extracurricular activities such as attending general meetings of the Students' Association is nil. No doubt non-participation and non-representation on the part of the parents made the president of the S.A. feel justified to remark that until 1985 there would be no space in or around the Union Building for a creche. In this way the isolation of parents and children from the student body is continued, while money is wasted on badly designed space-wasting projects such as the stair-case leading down off Hunter.

It is not too late to do something about all this. To designate a few rooms in the Student: union Building for the use of a morning-creche next year would be a good start. For the creche this additional service might stave off acute overcrowding for perhaps a year. This would fit in neatly with the multiple use concept of the Student Union. If it would be connected with what is going on in the rest of the building via a window so that students could see the children without wanting to be involved this would be a great asset. It would make the building a lot more suitable as a meeting hall and a lor more attractive for just going to because you are lonely or bored. Of course there are a lot of students who would want to come and play with the children. They came before we were disaffiliated and some of them go all the way out to Te Kaianga to help there. At the moment the creche has no room for these people. Isn't it about time the Students' Association lost its cuckoo-syndrome and took its head out of the sand?

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