As an educator working in Manukau I get frustrated and saddened by the frequent portrayal of our community in deficit terms. A place where people come rushing in from outside to fix all the ills that apparently abound within South Auckland.
Vester refreshingly rejects this narrow vision of Manukau and presents keen insights into a thriving community. However, she does not ignore the fact that there are changes needed to ensure the communities of Manukau share greater educational success and economic reward. Rather, the richness of culture in South Auckland is seen a power source for educational and economic transformation.
She offers a metaphor of a seven-star constellation of approaches that focus on ownership of its own transformation. Her first star suggestion that policymakers start with the mothers and aunties (and may I suggest grannies) resounds strongly with those on the ground floor who work in social agencies and in education. If you want strong healthy families and whānau start with toa wahine. There is a strong message of involving South Auckland communities in designing solutions to the challenges that they face.
The notion that South Auckland needs to hear the positive messages about itself is not new, but she gives new emphasis to social and cultural regeneration. To achieve this, Vester explores relationships. She puts forward the notion that we create a new model of governance by moving away from a market model to establish schools that work in a new way with the community. She calls these place-based solutions to be crafted alongside and with communities.
Rather than locate blame on to the recipients of local and national policy she challenges those who develop policy. She suggests that when educational development and economic development work together we will get better outcomes. The crux is that this can only happen when local communities gain access to the decision-making table. I am left wondering who is going to leave the table to make room, or do we just buy a bigger table?
It is not a long read but I think it is the most thoughtful analysis of education in South Auckland that I have read in the last decade. Well worth the read.