The collaborative efforts of the Green party and 33 student unions have launched a People’s Inquiry into student wellbeing. Spearheaded by Green Party MP Chlöe Swarbrick, the inquiry is one of Aotearoa’s largest student union collaborations ever. Its ambitions are equally impressive.
The inquiry sets out to rehaul the student support system and tackle the hardships people face while studying. An online survey is the first step in this process, with the purpose of understanding what today’s students are going through. The survey includes questions on all matters affecting the student experience. The hope is that arming decision-makers with an understanding of the issues students are facing will bring targeted action from up top.
The leaders of the inquiry state there has never been a better time for this inquiry. Collective student debt just passed $16 billion. Student housing prices are hitting record highs as living conditions reach new lows. Even with passing the Pastoral Care Act last year, the government’s efforts to improve resident welfare in student accommodation have amounted to mere “tokenistic” acts, according to New Zealand Union of Students’ Associations representative Andrew Lessells. Simultaneously, young people’s mental health and addiction services continue to fall through the cracks. The gaps in support are so alarming that the government watchdog, the Auditor-General, has started investigating what’s changed with the $1.9 billion investment into mental health in 2019.
With the inquiry, politics may start listening to what students have to say. All students’ perspectives will shape the inquiry. The leadership of Tauira Pasifika, Te Mana Akonga and the National Disabled Students’ Association indicates this will be an equitable process.
Rather than our government expecting students to just harden up, let’s hope the inquiry addresses why students should swallow the concrete pill in the first place.
Find the survey on the Greens Party website.