My Alma mater, Kelston Girls, doesn't feature in the newspaper that much. It's a working class, multi-cultural girls' high school in West Auckland. Sure the school does well at some sports and cultural competitions, however based on pass rates in external examinations it isn't one of Auckland's more stellar academic institutions. But the school also doesn't engage in the practice of excluding students from entrance nor sitting external exams in the name of 'academic excellence.' Thus when the academic achievement of the incoming year 9s is factored into those raw pass rates, Kelston's academic ranking climbs to one of the highest in Auckland according to some numbers done in Metro Magazine a month or so ago.
But labels stick. I often I hear the word 'oh' when I respond to which high school I went to or the phrase 'a bit rough' when people talk about the school. Because more often than not, these are codewords for 'there be too many brown students for my liking,' which I presume is the reason why so many kids were being bussed out of the area every day by their anxious parents. What a shame.
Because their kids missed out on another sort of education, how to get along with people from different backgrounds than yourself. Everyone in that school was a minority whether they be Pakeha, Maori, Samoan, Chinese, a refugee from Bosnia or any one of the 60 or so nationalities that were on the school roll back when I was student. I can imagine that the school has gotten more diverse in the decade or so since I left.
Added to the mix were a number of deaf students who studied alongside their hearing peers. The lessons of communicating with the deaf girl in my class in a mixture of New Zealand Sign Language, writing and other forms of non-verbal communication came in handy when I was overseas and trying to get my point across to non-English speakers. Most of the pupils won't go on to become high-flying 'professionals' (some of them will and have) but the school really bent over backwards to enable us to be the best that we could be but we were also weren't spoon fed, our teachers expected us to work to achieve our goals. I definitely consider my education to have been academically richer than if my parents had sent me to one of the more prestigious Auckland high schools and not just because I would have spent most of my teenage years on a school bus if I had been sent further afield.
So I was quite chuffed to see this story in the paper today, as I imagine my parents will be due to the tut-tutting they got in their decision to send me there. Also what an awesome young woman, I hope she goes on to fulfill her dreams.