Manish Tanna –
It is a matter of great pride for Kiwi Indians that Indian Newslink is celebrating its 17th Anniversary in the world of media in this country.
It has been a privilege to be associated with this prestigious publication that portrays the true picture of the South Asian community in New Zealand and brings their voice and opinion to the portals of power in national and regional politics.
I am truly grateful to be given an opportunity to write on this occasion.
My thoughts here will be on (a) The Prime Minister’s aircraft (b) Office photocopier and dishwashers and (c) Education for special needs.
A couple of weeks ago, Prime Minister John Key and a group of delegates were travelling to India on a very important visit, their plane developed a snag (at Townsville, Queensland, Australia) and hence reached India a day later.
Nothing special for PM
This sparked a deluge of comments ranging from outright condescending to insultingly funny. Questions were raised on image of our country that was portrayed and how if it would have been any other Head of State, within half an hour another plane would have been organised and so on.
Politicians in the opposition took pot shots at government policy on funding of defence forces as well as the need for buying a better plane.
However, I was forced to compare the situation prevalent in many other countries, including India, which many here can hardly imagine.
Politicians of all rankings, starting from a local body councillor would deem it their legal right to flout all norms of traffic.
It is common to have road closures for the motorcades of leaders. Special planes, helicopters, train coaches are very commonly available for them to use and are often abused by those in power or even in the opposition.
All this happens at the cost of the common man, who ends up paying the bills.
We, in New Zealand, are fortunate enough that our leaders, including the Prime Minister, still behave like normal human beings.
It would have been a sad day for this country had an arrogant decision been made on that day by officials just to ensure that the Prime minister and delegates reach India in time. It has again proved to me that New Zealand is committed to equity.
Photocopiers & Dishwashers
This brings me to my second point, office photocopiers and dishwashers.
In the last ten years that I have been in this country, I have worked in various positions ranging from temporary staff to managerial. I have learnt that we clean the dishes after use and we do our own photocopy.
For managers, it is very common to fill the dishwasher after the staff has had their lunch or tea when they are on roster duty and equally common for them to stand near the photocopier waiting for their turn to press the switches and get the requisite number of copies.
What we take to be normal looks so extraordinary when we think of the disparity between levels of workers in other countries.
It has been a real learning for many like me, who come from diverse societies.
Some, who do not understand the subtle differences often criticise or laugh at how New Zealanders are generally laid back.
The reality is that we in this country are mostly at peace with our surroundings and ourselves. Be it the skiing slopes of mountains or open stretches of clean beaches, we are relaxed and often wonder why the rest of the world seems to be at war with itself.
Finally, being a teacher, I would like to talk about some education initiatives that set us apart from the rest of the world.
The system of education here cares for the individual student and this is not in just policy rhetoric but in classrooms across the country.
Smiling, loving and caring teacher assistants are available to help many a student with special needs who, in most other places would be languishing away in dark dismal ‘Special schools’ doomed to a second-grade existence by a society calling their needs as disability or mental disease.
We have rules that allow students to complete their education with minimum compulsions and maximum choice.
We have assessments that respect the individuality of students allowing them to write, speak, video, draw or in some cases just do some task and be successful.
I would like to reiterate that it is a genuine pleasure to be part of this silent revolution unfolding in the corner of the world, in this tiny country that punches much above its weight in many fields, be it science, adventure, games and sports or business.
Manish Tanna is an educationist and community worker, currently teaching at Mahurangi College, Auckland. He is an active Member of the National Party.
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