Friday, 4 March 2011

Canterbury earthquake

No one in CE hurt
Lives and services badly disrupted

The Canterbury Earthquake & Conductive Education
Each of the three Conductive Education centres in Christchurch is closed at present. At this stage when they will open is not known. There are many issues to resolve before children can begin to return to our Christchurch facilities. While the “State of Emergency” continues in Christchurch, this in itself means schools must remain closed and it is currently an offence for unauthorized people to be on school grounds while this is in force. As two of the units are attached school units and the third is sited on school grounds, decisions made by the Ministry of Education and the respective school boards will also apply to the CE units.
It appears that all three units’ buildings escaped any major structural damage to the degree that would make them unable to be used but that is still to be confirmed by the “experts.”
Damage to fittings, equipment and of course the mess to be cleaned up provide the major issues for staff in regard to physical requirements. Of course these are all things that can be fixed. The important fact is that all children and staff are safe and as far as I am aware, no person was physically harmed in any way. However, lives for some will have been profoundly affected. The major issues to be resolved before normality can be restored are people issues!
One of the lessons that Ministry of Education decision-makers and Government Ministers must take from this disaster is confirmation of the level of one to one adult support these profoundly disabled children require to keep them safe at all times. Recent Government decisions to reduce funding and therefore staff ratios for the school facilities that cater for large numbers of these children compromise this requirement. The quake struck during the lunch hour when most of the children were inside having lunch. Fortunately some had just been loaded into taxis ready to head to “Riding for the Disabled.” However, it was a most traumatic experience for the children and the staff, getting them all out to safety when the number of staff in no way matched the number of totally dependent children. Staff express great concern at returning especially as it is Government’s intention in the future to further reduce these staff to pupil ratios through this funding reduction.
If only we could persuade these Government decision-makers to visit our facilities and actually gain some first hand understanding of the degree of disability these children have, then perhaps we might get some sensible decisions in regard to the funding levels needed to meet the needs in all situations of this particular group of children.
On Wednesday I visited each of the three facilities. I was able to speak with staff from the Addington School unit and the pre-school unit and view first hand their facilities. However, Cashmere High School was completely in lock down mode, being heavily affected by liquefaction and no members of staff were on site, in fact it was probably illegal for me to have been there. The Conductive Education building appeared from the outside to be still intact but that of course is just my totally uninformed opinion.
The school unit has escaped with relatively minor damage to the building and liquefaction has not been an issue for them, and of course for the pre-school which is on the same site. There is not a consistent supply of water from the water mains system and therefore toilets would not be operational.
A number of children both from the mainstream school and the CE unit have left Christchurch with their families, due to having serious damage to their homes and in some cases losing homes altogether. Principal Trudy is aware of one child in particular from the unit having  already enrolled in a country school. Really at this stage there is no clear picture of how many children would actually be in town ready to turn up when the unit does re-open.
This same issue of course also applies to staff. For example Rebecca Meachan, the Deputy Principal who also has a management responsibility for the unit, as part of her role for the responsibility for the children in the school with special needs, has lost her house which has been virtually destroyed. Both Dora Molnar & Marta Katrona, the two conductors have serious damage to their houses and are understood to be currently in Timaru. For the remaining staff many have extreme issues in their personal circumstances, both family & accommodation and at this stage there can be no clear understanding of how many would be in a position of being able to return to work when the unit does re-open. As the aftershocks continue, Trudy and the staff are not prepared to open the unit until there is assurance that there are enough staff  “on deck” to ensure the safety of the children in all situations.
The Canterbury CE Early Intervention Centre
I meet with Rebecca, the facility’s manager and Nichola the Early Intervention Teacher. Their circumstances are similar to Addington’s with very little damage to the structure of the building or to the surrounding grounds, but also no consistent supply of water or adequate toilet facilities.
As for the Addington unit then, the main problems relate to the circumstances of the people. The staff member most affected in regard to her home is Anna Maria, the conductor. Her home has been destroyed and is not habitable. Other staff, while not losing their homes do have damage issues to attend to and of course access to facilities to enable life to return to normal.
Family issues are the main concern and it is not known how many of the facility’s children are “still in town” and therefore in a position to return once the facilities reopen. It is known that some families have left town, hopefully temporarily. As the unit is on school grounds, they will also not be able to open until the state of emergency is declared over and the schools reopen.
Cashmere CE
I have no information as to the situation in regard to the Cashmere unit.
As previously mentioned I have been unable to contact staff for an up-date. As soon as I am aware of their situation I will advise other facilities.

Regards from Christchurch
Dave Ching
NZFCE National Coordinator

Thanks, Dave, and do keep us in touch. Meanwhile, good luck and best wishes to you all.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is a most moving report from Dave Ching. Thanks to Dave and also to Andrew for the posting.

One wishes there were a way to help.

Friday, 4 March 2011 at 17:16:00 GMT  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home