Hide on special education

Rodney Hide writes:

Little Devon Roke was turned down by three early childhood education centres before BestStart’s ABC Waterview agreed to enrol him.

The three centres had their stated reasons — but the real reason was that Devon has cerebral palsy. …

I had many wonderful experiences in politics but the greatest was my all-too-brief spell as Minister Responsible for Special Education.

I visited my first special school not knowing what to expect and was immediately swept up in a class where I had never before seen so much learning and sheer joy and such committed and loving teachers.

I couldn’t tear myself away and found myself cavorting on the floor, dancing and singing with the students, totally uncaring what I looked or sounded like or that I was supposed to be the minister, not a child at school.

I was hooked.

It consumed me.

It was wonderful.

I saw children learning more than I ever believed possible. I saw children put in more effort than I had ever before seen. I walked beside a boy as he dragged himself to class from the playground and then up into his chair.

And I saw the look of achievement and happiness on his face.

He could not have been prouder if he had just conquered Everest.

In another primary school, I saw children looking after their cerebral palsy mate in a wheelchair and playing football with him. I don’t know who among them was enjoying it the most.

And everywhere the teachers were the most wonderful I could imagine.

I did my best to make the students’ lives better, but instead it was they who made such a difference to mine.

I still get texts from some and some still remember my birthday.

I feel sorry for the students of the three centres who turned Devon away. He would have made such a difference to their lives. And now they are going to miss out. That’s sad and it’s wrong.

What a great column.

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