Forty-Eight tertiary students’ associations across Aotearoa, supported by the New Zealand Union of Students’ Associations, Te Mana Ākonga, Tauira Pasifika, and the National Disabled Students’ Association, have come together to redesign the National Student Action Plan on COVID-19.
The plan covers what tertiary students require from the Government and their providers to get through a prolonged lockdown while studying.
The plan includes three requests of the Government which need to be made available to all tertiary students - full time and part time, post-graduate and undergraduate. This includes people who are currently ineligible for StudyLink support because of their age.
The three demands are:
As a temporary measure, extend all income support from StudyLink to all domestic students as a temporary Universal Education Income (UEI).
Significantly increase resources allocated to the COVID-19 Hardship Fund to ensure that all students have the financial support they need to make it through lockdown.
Increase funding for mental health support to ensure that students remain supported during a period of isolation.
The New Zealand Union of Students’ Associations National President Andrew Lessells says “students are finding themselves in a very vulnerable financial position. The amount they receive through StudyLink is insufficient to cover essential living costs at the best of times, let alone when students are losing employment and having to move home.”
Nkhaya Paulsen-More, Tumuaki Takirua of Te Mana Ākonga, says that “lockdowns have adverse effects on the physical and mental health of tauira Māori”.
“Having additional funding to support our tauira can alleviate some of the hardships that they face through no fault of their own. There’s added pressure to return home to whānau, which means travelling long distances in uncertain conditions. There’s also the risk of not having adequate resources, like a good laptop, a stable internet connection, or a quiet room to do online learning in, to continue their studies. These are just a few examples of many that make lockdowns anxious periods of time for tauira,” says Paulsen-More.
Jaistone Finau, President of Tauira Pasifika says, “Pasifika communities already have odds stacked against them. With a loss of employment and not being able to meet StudyLink criteria, many Pasifika students are finding basic living and the procurement of essential necessities a real challenge. This needs to be at the forefront, otherwise we risk having more students fall through the cracks. We have the leadership, but we are looking for financial support and stability over this uncertain period.”
President of the National Disabled Students’ Association Alice Mander says “there is already minimal support available for students, and disabled students often miss out completely”.
“We know from last year that COVID-19 outbreaks exacerbate existing financial inequities facing disabled tauira, such as having enough money to heat homes to meet health needs or unexpected costs from moving back to family homes. We also know that the impacts of the COVID-19 outbreak is likely to last much longer for disabled and immunocompromised communities, and is likely to cause more psychological stress and isolation. An immediate but long-term response is necessary, so that disabled communities and students are supported through the duration of the COVID19 pandemic despite lowering alert levels in Aotearoa.”
NZUSA National President Andrew Lessells says, “the Government needs to ensure that all students have the support and resources to continue in their education, otherwise we’re just entrenching the inequities that COVID exposes. The current Hardship Fund for Learners (HAFL) simply isn’t large enough to support the 400,000 students across Aotearoa through a prolonged lockdown”.
“The Government needs to get real about the financial insecurity students face and implement urgent measures to support them.”
The National Student Action Plan on COVID-19 will be sent to the Ministers for Education and Social Development, Hon. Chris Hipkins and Hon. Carmel Sepuloni, this afternoon. The 2021 National Student Action Plan on COVID-19 can be viewed here: https://www.students.org.nz/s/NZUSA-National-Action-Plan-on-COVID-19-2021-Final.pdf