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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 44

Chapter XIII. Education—Religion—Advanced Legislation

Chapter XIII. Education—Religion—Advanced Legislation.

One of the heaviest items in the colonial expenditure is very praiseworthy, being that on education. From the earliest days of each settlement this important subject loomed largely in the minds of the colonists. Each province had its own system, but all were imbued with tolerance and liberality. The abolition of the provinces led to the passing of a comprehensive act applicable to the whole colony. By the Education Act, 1877, a department of Education, presided over by a responsible minister of the crown, has been constituted. The colony has been divided into twelve education districts, each of which is managed by a local board. Upon the memorial of not less than ten householders any locality may be made a school district, having a school committee, the members of which may establish one or more schools, subject to the general supervision and control of the district board. Education is wholly free, secular, and compulsory. Provision must be made for the military drill of all the boys. The expenditure of the department during the year ended 30th June 1879 was £341,676. The total average attendance of scholars during the last quarter of 1878 was 50,639, at 748 schools, conducted by a staff of 1611 teachers, of whom 844 were head masters and mistresses. The teachers are classified according to their merit, and are subject to a system of thorough inspection. The standard of tuition in the primary schools is high, and there are numerous grammar schools, including high schools specially for girls, where secondary education of the best kind can be received. Normal schools or training institutions on a comparatively large scale have been established at Dunedin and Christchurch by the educa- page 91 tion boards. In the country districts the allowances to the teachers vary from £100 to £250, according to circumstances. In Dunedin the head-masters in the primary schools receive from £367 to £450 per annum. There are 97 scholarships varying from £20 to £40 awarded to successful competitors throughout the colony, to enable them to pursue the higher studies away from their homes.

In Dunedin there has been in existence for seven years, under the Education Board, provision for the teaching of drawing by a highly qualified master and two assistants. In addition to their services in the public schools, they conduct the School of Art, where classes for teachers and pupil-teachers, afternoon classes for young ladies, and evening classes for artisans and others, have been carried on with the happiest result. The total number that received instruction in drawing in 1878, including pupils in the public schools, was 3710. Among the artisans' evening class were to be found masons, bricklayers, carpenters, mechanical engineers, and others, for whom the tuition was of the greatest service. A yearly exhibition of their works and of those of resident artists, chiefly amateurs, is held, and it is not too much to say that some of the water-colour drawings give promise of rare excellence. The grandeur of the scenery in New Zealand is certain to aid in the production of landscape painting of high order, and already the names of Gully, Barraud, and others are not unknown to fame.

In his Report of 5th December 1878, the Inspector-general gives an interesting account of a meeting with native chiefs at Ohinemutu in the North Island. Pirimi said: 'There are a great number of children, perhaps two hundred. We grieve very much to see such ignorance. Long ago, when Mr Tait was here, the children did know a little English. If that had continued till now, they would have been almost like Europeans. The house is ready, only the teacher is now wanting.' Maihi te Rangikaheke said: 'What he wanted to see was a college for the whole Arawa tribe, not excluding other Maoris, and admitting also the children of neighbouring settlers. Children were sometimes sent to school or college, and there made drudges of, receiving only so much teaching as would be given to European children who were to become labourers, and not enough to open any profitable or honourable career to them. Let them have a college where their children could be properly taught and treated under their own eyes.' At the native school at Rotuiti, the master did not seem to set a page 92 good example in the way of dress, as he was found to conform himself to the Maori usage in the interior of wearing a woollen shawl as a kilt. The inspector remarks: 'A shirt and a blanket or shawl constitute his working attire.'

The copestone of the educational system is the New Zealand University, constituted by Royal Charter and statute as an examining body for the purpose of granting degrees. It is a somewhat cumbrous institution, and does not give an adequate return for the £3000 it costs the colony annually. It is probable some reform will be effected whereby it may be rendered more serviceable. It was originally intended that the University of Otago, which was established previously, should merge into the more important character of the New Zealand University, but local jealousy stood somewhat in the way. The University of Otago has power by provincial ordinance to grant degrees. It has an endowment of 210,000 acres of pastoral land. The university buildings, situated in Dunedin, are a commodious and effective pile, erected at a cost of £34,000. The large hall or library was used last August for the first time in the ceremony of capping two graduates of the New Zealand University, which latter institution has no local habitation. The hall is adorned with fine pictures of Her Majesty and Prince Albert, the gift of a leading citizen, Mr E. B. Cargill, and by full-length portraits of the founders of the province, Captain Cargill, the Rev. Dr Burns, and Mr John M'Glashan. In the museum of the university is a fine copy, obtained by permission of the Admiralty, of the Greenwich Hospital portrait of Captain Cook, the gift of another citizen, Mr James Rattray. The faculties of arts, medicine, and law, and schools of mines and engineering, presided over by an efficient staff of seven professors and two lecturers, are accommodated within the walls of the university. The school of medicine is recognised by that of Edinburgh. The number of students is steadily increasing. Last year there were sixty-eight, and special classes were opened for the instruction of school teachers in science, at which upwards of 200 attended.

There are also colleges in Christchurch, Wellington, Nelson, and Auckland, at which scientific training can be obtained, and a special school of agriculture at Christchurch. Besides these public institutions, the Roman Catholics have their own seminaries for the instruction of the young, conducted with ability and zeal. As a whole it can be said justly that the page 93 educational interests of the rising generation throughout the colony have been carefully and amply attended to.

The department of Education has also the administration of the funds voted by parliament under the Public Libraries Subsidies Act, 1877, which amounted to £5000. This was distributed among 271 public libraries, the local subscriptions to which amounted for 1878 to £7299, making upwards of £12,000 devoted during the year to the diffusion of sound literature. In 1873 the local libraries contained 100,000 volumes, which number must now be doubled. Some of the public libraries are of great value. The Assembly library at Wellington is very complete, containing many rare and standard works. It is to be regretted that so valuable a collection has not found a more secure resting-place than the wooden erection in which it is housed. The law libraries attached to the Supreme Courts at Auckland, Christchurch, and Dunedin, are all very full and of considerable value. The fees charged on the admission of barristers and solicitors are applied towards the maintenance of the libraries.

The colonists of New Zealand have not remained content with making provision for the proper education of their children at the common schools, the high schools, and the universities, but they have also made a noble effort to sustain the cultivation of science among themselves. The New Zealand Institute was established by parliament twelve years ago, to promote the general study and cultivation of the various branches and departments of art, science, literature, and philosophy. It has attached to it the geological survey of the colony, and at the laboratory at Wellington various analyses are being constantly made. In each of the provincial centres there are branches of the Institute, at the meetings of which valuable contributions are read and discussed. There are now 1135 members throughout the colony. Eleven volumes of the Transactions, each containing 500 pages, with numerous plates and maps, have been published, which have been recently characterised by a leading Melbourne journal as full of valuable matter and sound and lasting work. Many interesting details concerning the native race, and the indigenous flora and fauna, have thus been preserved, which would otherwise have been lost in the rapid changes incident to modern civilisation. Copies of the Transactions are forwarded to public institutions in Britain, Calcutta, America, Brussels, Prussia, Italy, and Vienna, where they are highly esteemed. Among the honorary members are page 94 found the honoured names of Hooker, Owen, Darwin, and Huxley.

There is a public museum in each of the large towns, presided over by a man of science as director; the museums in Wellington, Christchurch, and Dunedin being of special excellence. Conspicuous among the objects of interest at Wellington is a Maori Council Hall, with all its intricate and uncouth carvings, supposed to represent the illustrious warriors of bygone days. Christchurch is famous for its unparalleled collection of Moa skeletons; and Dunedin has a collection of birds comprising 1200 species, in which are represented 103 out of the 114 families into which birds have been divided.

As an outcome of a paper read at the Otago Institute, Mr W. N. Blair, M. Inst. C.E., Engineer in Chief of the South Island, has published an excellent treatise on the building materials of Otago and South New Zealand generally. He gives full details of the granite, bluestone, breccia, black, gray, red, and white marbles, various limestones, sandstones, and slates, all found in abundance, and coming into extensive use. 'The Imperial Red' marble of Canterbury is stated to be worth from 20s. to 30s. per cubic foot in London, against 12s. to 15s., the price of the 'Jaune Fleuri' of France, which comes nearest to it. It appears that there is every prospect of a considerable export trade in the Canterbury marbles. The Oamaru stone is quite unrivalled for purposes of internal decoration. The ordinary freestones of the old world do not offer anything like the same facilities for the sculptor's art. The Oamaru stone carvings of studies in foliage, animals, and traceries of various kinds, by Mr Godfrey of Dunedin, are not surpassed in chasteness of design or delicacy of manipulation, by the works of the medieval artists. In a group of foliage, he has been able to cut with truthful minuteness a fly crawling on a leaf.

Mr Blair says that although his papers revealed a number of new facts, the researches he has made in compiling them, enables him to say, without reservation, that our resources are still practically unknown. Many of the best supplies are untouched, and in all probability the best of each kind is not yet discovered. He alludes to the extent of the field of iron ore, the numerous specimens of copper ore found in Otago, Nelson, and the Thames gold-fields, to the lead and 'stream tin' discovered, and to the existence of useful fire and pottery clays throughout Otago; all only waiting the increase of settle- page 95 merit and wealth, and improved facilities for transit, to insure their profitable development and utilisation. Black-lead of the finest kind is worked at Nelson. We recollect of a miner bringing to us one day in Dunedin a sackful of what he called 'lumbago,' meaning thereby the mineral of economic value, the initial letter of which he had dropped.

Following upon what the state has done for education, a word may be said about what the people have done for themselves in the way of religious instruction. It might be expected that an energetic population striving to make their adopted country worthy of being the abode of an intellectual and cultured race, would not be negligent of the claims of religion, the binding cement of our social state. There is no state endowment, but each denomination lives in healthy and friendly rivalry with the others, and there is no district left uncared for in the matter of religious ordinances. The two leading denominations are the Church of England and the Presbyterian, the former predominating, except in the southern half of the South Island, where the Synod of the Presbyterians prevails. Next to these two bodies come the zealous Roman Catholics and the indefatigable Wesleyans. In 1878 the Church of England had 43 per cent, of the population within its pale, the Presbyterians 23 per cent., the Roman Catholics 14, and the Methodists 9. The remaining 11 per cent, included Baptists, Independents, and others. In the colony there were 1424 Hebrews and 4379 pagans. These latter are the Chinese, who call themselves Confucians. Fifty-four of the Chinese profess Christianity. There are about 600 churches, and 156 schools used for public worship. Many of the churches are beautiful specimens of ecclesiastical architecture, fitted to grace much larger towns. Two in Dunedin are specially deserving of notice. The First Church on Bell Hill, and Knox Church in George Street, both with lofty spires, are models of elegance, and monuments of the refined taste and Christian liberality of the people. The former cost £17,000, and can accommodate 1300 sitters. The latter cost £19,000, and is seated for 1200. Both are well filled. In Knox Church the number of communicants is 580. Last year the congregation raised for all purposes £4690. Their Sunday schools are attended by 600 scholars, taught by 60 teachers.

Other means of Christian usefulness, such as Young Men's Society, Ladies' Society, Missionary Society, and kindred institutions, are in vigorous operation. The forty-six congregations of the Presbyterian Church of Otago and South- page break
First Church, Dunedin.

First Church, Dunedin.

R. A. Lawson, Arch.

page 97 land raised for all purposes last year the sum of £28,342. The equal dividend from the sustentation fund is £222, which is largely supplemented by many of the congregations. A
Knox Church, Dunedin.

Knox Church, Dunedin.

comfortable manse is attached to each charge. This Presby-terian body has 91 Sunday schools, with 6891 pupils and 664 teachers, and their libraries contain 10,000 volumes. These details are not given because the Presbyterian Church is fore- page 98 most in every good work, but because they are the readiest to hand, and they may be fairly accepted as illustrative of the Christian zeal and liberality manifested throughout the com-munity; and as a proof the people generally are resolved to transmit to their children the blessings they inherited in their native lands in the churches of their fathers.

The thorough and satisfactory treatment of the vexed question of education by the legislature, and that without any grudge on the score of expense, as well as the liberality shewn by the people in their voluntary provision for religious ordinances, shew that they are not tied down by the ancient lines existing in the mother-country. In other points also, they have in the soundest practical spirit gone far ahead of imperial legislation. The simplicity of their land law, already mentioned, might be copied with advantage. It is virtually 'free-trade in land.' Great Britain has her national systems of education and telegraphs, but New Zealand has gone farther; and while enjoying these, has also her national system of railways, a national system of life assurance and annuities, unlimited in amount—in which there are 10,314 existing policies, assuring £3,744,997—and a national or public trustee, under whom all estates may be safely and legally administered, with the aid of a board of advice. In the local courts, all suits up to £200 are decided summarily, with the help, at the request of either party, of a jury of four. It is probable the limit will be raised to £500. Our universities and schools are free from religious tests. There is no poor-law, no pauper class created by statute to disorganise and prey on the vitals of society. When cases of distress occur, the benevolent societies maintained by the voluntary contributions of the inhabitants, aided by the government, afford the necessary relief, and any unusual calamity is always warmly met by special effort. The hospitals are under state control, the funds being augmented by private subscriptions. Protection against fire is given by volunteers in every town formed into fire brigades, who have their equipments ready at a moment's warning. There are 27 brigades in the colony, with 94 officers and 681 men. We long ago anticipated the imperial parliament in testing the efficacy of vote by ballot, and we are much ahead in regard to the electoral qualification. The extreme penalty of the law has always been carried out within the prison walls. Married women can be protected from drunken, cruel, or careless husbands, and their earnings secured for their own use. The right of primogeniture no page 99 longer exists, and daughters share in cases of intestacy in the distribution of real estate. Banks are bound to render sworn returns quarterly of their assets and liabilities, which are duly published. The whole scope of colonial legislation aims at simplicity and practical usefulness, and the aristocracy of talent has no impeding or fettering influences to prevent its affording its best services to the state.

It may be inferred from what has been stated that the general character of the New Zealanders is generous and good. Some are apt to impute a low moral standard on the part of colonists in general; but this allegation cannot be justified. Human nature is much the same the world over; but judging from the calendar of crime, and other sources of information, the moral condition of our community will bear favourable comparison with that of older nations. Burglary is almost unknown. The most common crime is the passing a valueless cheque by thoughtless ne'er-do-wells sent out to the colony to be got rid of. Then the population being as yet limited, men in business are all well known throughout the colony; and society can now point to many of its members, who by honourable dealing and uprightness of character, have secured the confidence of the public, and have become independent, thus offering the best hostage that the prevalent tone of integrity will not speedily pass away.

Occasionally a black-sheep may be found willing to take advantage of his customers, but the rascality is for the most part imported. A German publican who lived in Wellington years ago was one day chaffed by his friends about the mode in which he had grown rich. They sneered at him as a man who had made his money out of gin and brandy and rum. 'No, no,' said the foreigner;' I did not make my money out of de gin and brandy and rum—I lose money by dem: I make my money out of de water.'

It is said that some of the keepers of the shanties in the interior of the North Island, which they dignify with the name of hotels, at times take advantage of the Maoris by getting them to run up a long score for liquor, and then securing a mortgage over their lands. Such instances must be rare, as the Maori generally is shrewd and not easily imposed on. They are not always, however, able to match the low Pakeha in cunning. A Maori having reason to believe he was cheated in his quantities of goods and their relative price, was advised to buy a ready-reckoner. He did so, and on the next occasion convicted the storekeeper by turning up the ready-reckoner, page 100 when the latter at once nonplussed him by saying: 'Ah, but Jimmy, that's last year's ready-reckoner.'

New Zealand never was tainted with the convict element. Its early settlers were men of the best stamp, hardy and energetic, many of them of good breeding and of high culture. With a superb climate and other natural advantages, the best qualities of the race will have free play for their full development. If the handful of people now in occupation of these islands have already made so great an advance in their short career, what will their progress be in the next generation, with the fulcrum they have now as a basis to work upon, when their fertile acres respond gratefully to the skill of the scientific agriculturist; when their sheep and cattle are worked up to a strain of the most productive excellence; when the mines of gold, silver, cinnabar, lead, copper, tin, and iron are in full operation; when their superabundant coal is driving countless engines in manufactures, and in transit by land and sea; when their commerce shall have fully grasped the teeming islands of the Pacific with their unlimited tropical production, already tied to them by favourable winds and currents; when the best intellects of her children receive the benefits of the highest culture; when freedom pure and unfettered guides the destinies of the nation, and the healthy body, the casket of the healthy soul, promotes well-regulated action in every department of life? Who can tell? Social problems, which in older and more complex organisations are creating intense anxiety in the minds of the thoughtful, may here be solved without violence. The resources of the country in their growth will exceed all that the alchemist could ever hope for by his most potent elixir. The oriental fancy of Aladdin's wonderful lamp will be excelled in reality. There will be no partial elevation of some accompanied by the deeper degradation of others. Like the upraising of the land by innate volcanic fires, the mountain ranges and the lower plains will rise in equal proportion. This favoured land will be the arena where all that can tend to alleviate and diminish human misery can be effectually carried out, and the blessings of wealth, comfort, the dignity of labour, and an abiding peace, be most fully realised, and become the heritage of all.