Dying for education


Waitaki Girls’ High School celebrates its 125th anniversary today.

It is, I think, the fifth oldest girls’ secondary school in New Zealand.

Otago Girls’ High was the first girls’ secondary school in the country, opening in 1871. Christchurch Girls’ opened in 1877, Nelson Girls’ College in 1883, New Plymouth Girls’ in 1885 and Waitaki opened in 1887.

Secondary education for girls wasn’t considered necessary back then.

The Honour of Her Name, The Story of Waitaki Girls’ High School, 1887 – 1987  begins:

It was assumed that a girl would marry and if she could cook, sew, rear children and keep her husband happy, no more was required of her. Elementary education would have given her skills in reading, writing and numbering sufficient to carry her through life and she might not even make use of them. . .

The idea that girls don’t need education thankfully belongs to history here but that is not so in all other parts of the world.
There are still some places where education for girls isn’t considered necessary and others where it can be dangerous.
Fourteen year-old Malala Yousufzai, is recovering in a British hospital after being shot by the Taliban last week.

Malala was flown from Pakistan, via the United Arab Emirates in an air ambulance, a week after she and two other schoolgirls were attacked as they returned home from school in Mingora in the Swat valley.

She became widely known as a campaigner for girls’ education in Pakistan after writing a diary for BBC Urdu about life under the Taliban, when they banned girls from attending school.

The National Youth Assembly has appealed to the government to nominate appealed the government to nominate Malala for a Nobel Peace Prize.
“As an international symbol of freedom, peace and education, she deserves the most for this prestigious award,” said NYA President Hanan Ali Abbasi while talking to Agency here on Monday.

“Malala, also a member of the NYA, is the most precious asset of the NYA and “we have launched a global campaign on social media for her justifiable projection and right,” informed Hanan. United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon, in a statement and a message to the world said, “Malala is a role model not only for your country, but for our world,” adding that education was a fundamental right for everybody.”

The people who worked so hard for the right for girls to be educated here more than 100 years ago would no doubt be delighted with the opportunities they have today.
We should be grateful to the pioneers and also mindful that access to education still isn’t universal. Some girls still risk dying for education.




We had established we had both gone to Waitaki Girls’ High when she said something which made me realise that she thought we might be a similar age.

Not wanting to be be rude about what I thought must be quite a bit more than a decade’s difference in our ages, I said, “I was there from 1970 to 1974.”

Oh, she said, “I left in 1959.”

I thought it was funny but can see why the Auckland woman, mistaken for someone twice her age by a gosspip columnist isn’t amused.



I’ve spent the afternoon taking special votes to people.

When you do this, sometimes the person voting needs help with the ticks so you know how they vote.

I had one of those today and – I can hardly bring myself to type this – she didn’t do two blue ticks. She ticked National in the electorate but one of the red-block parties in the all important party vote.

The only comfort I can take from that is that somewhere maybe someone from the red block took a special vote from someone who ticked blue and that democracy is more important than political partisanship.

And while I’m confessing, I’ll admit I walked down the main street today with my Labour counterpart – that party’s electorate chair.

Waitaki Girls’ High has been studying democracy and were marching for women’s suffrage, so there we were – she in red & I in blue, chatting happily along the street because politics is a difference of opnion, not a war.

Difference between training and education


Professor Malcolm Grant, President and Provost of University College London, gave the address at this morning’s thanksgiving service for Waitaki Boys’ High School 125th reunion.

His theme was the difference between knowledge and wisdom and one of his points was how to differentiate between education and skills training.

He suggested we consider how we’d react if a daughter or grand daughter answered the question of what she’d done at school by saying she’d had sex education; then how we’d react if she’d said she’d had sex skills training.

Professor Grant started his address by referring to the school motto: Quanti Est Sapere, which I think translates as How Much Is Wisdom.

If I’ve got that wrong it’s a reflection on my memory and not Professor Grant’s mother, Vera, who taught me Latin at Waitaki Girls’.

While listening to this morning’s address I remembered that over the doors of rooms at what was called the Senior School building at Waitaki Girls’ (sadly demolished about 20 years ago) were quotes; one was relevant to this morning’s address (and I may not have this word perfect because it’s more than 30 years since I was a pupil): Knowledge is proud it knows so much, wisdom is humble it knows no more.

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