Monday, December 8, 2008

Small Schools

Over the last week I have been busy photographing the last of the schools I do for the year. It means I do a bit of traveling, and see some parts of the country that I get to only once a year.
The above photo is the complete roll and staff of the smallest school I visited during the year. I have been coming here for some years and have seen the roll change up and down depending on who owns the farms in the district. I think the most I ever saw here was 27, and the least 5.
Because I am one of very few photographers who will do some of these very small schools, I tend to get them all, which is not really in the best interests of my bank account. On the other hand, why should small remote schools miss out on the services other schools take for granted.
For a few years in the late nineties, I had the feeling that the Ministry of Education was following me around, and closing schools I had just photographed. Over a two or three year period I think I lost 13 this way, and did not always get the 'new' bigger school that resulted from consolidations. On the other hand I did not try very hard, as I always seem to have plenty to do. The real question is though, have these consolidations been good for the children in the system. There is no objective way of answering this, but what I can tell you from my own experience is 'no, these consolidations are not in the best interests of the students, or their communities'. And I will stick to that. As time goes on, and transport becomes more expensive, I will be able to say that the 'savings' earned will be wiped out as well.
The parents of the above students just know that though they are very isolated, their children are getting the absolutely best education possible. They tell me that. Does such a thing have a price?

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