LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

No child should have to live in fear

The conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza placed a spotlight on children — children in southern Israel traumatised by years of rocket fire and children in Gaza who bear the brunt of Israel's retaliation.

The death of any child is indefensible, and many of the deaths in Israel and Gaza were avoidable. The evidence is unequivocal that Hamas sheltered fighters and weapons among civilians, in hospitals and schools, as it has done in the past. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) condemned Hamas for placing rockets in UNRWA schools. In addition, the European Union condemned its use of civilians as human shields. Moreover, the Institute for Palestinian Studies published a report on Gaza's Tunnel Phenomenon, revealing that in excess of 160 Palestinian children were killed constructing these tunnels. Where is the peace and security for these children?

A mortar launched from the Jafar Ali Ibn Taleb school in the Zeitoun neighbourhood of Gaza on August 22 landed on Kibbutz Nahal Oz in Southern Israel, killing Daniel Tragerman, aged 4. Since January 2014, more than 4000 rockets have fallen inside Israel. Israeli children have 15 seconds to find shelter from these weapons. There are children suffering post-traumatic stress disorder on both sides of the border. Where is the peace and security for these children?

No child should live or die in fear. Blaming either side will not bring peace. Yet there is hope for Israelis and Palestinians. An Israeli non-profit organisation, Save a Child's Heart, treated Gaza children throughout the war. The Max Rayne Hand in Hand School is a beacon of light that champions Jerusalem's diversity. The student body comprises students from numerous ethnic and religious backgrounds — Arab Christian, Muslim, Armenian Christian, Jewish secular, Jewish traditionalist and more. The school is a microcosm of Israel's diversity and highlights the reality that education can act as a melting-pot for building understanding, exposing children to alternative religions and cultures. The school's mission is to build an inclusive shared society by establishing a network of integrated Jewish-Arab bilingual schools and organised communities. In turn, perhaps education can offer the children of Israel and Gaza a peaceful future.

Two states for two peoples living alongside one another in peace and security may yet become a reality.

Esther Kubie Madar
Part time leave without pay

Australian sovereignty in danger

Forget Vladimir Putin. The most dangerous things at November's G20 meeting in Brisbane are the trade treaties up for grabs, especially the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP). The Nurses and Midwives Association is up in arms. Members know Australians will die if the Pharmaceutical Benefit Scheme bites the dust, and a US-style corporate "health" system hits us, both likely under the TPP. Unions know it will wipe out what's left of our manufacturing industry.

And quality post school education at TAFE? The TPP will embed in international legislation the so-called Smart and Skilled gift to corporate cowboys that Federation is battling.

Want legislation to protect the environment or heritage? If it damages the profits of a multinational corporation our "sovereign" governments have no rights to protect anything.

The Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) provisions says it all. Investors' profits come first. States come second. Under ISDS French multinational Veolia (which incidentally operates illegally in the Palestinian territories) is suing the Egyptian Government over minimum wage legislation — for damaging its profitability. Philip Morris is suing Australia over tobacco plain packaging under the Australia-Hong Kong treaty, despite rates of smoking of young people decreasing markedly after plain packaging was introduced.

So what's in it for us or our kids? Absolutely nothing! Look out for protests on Saturday November 8.

Lindy Nolan
Casual

Backward step

As a casual teacher I was very pleased to read your article "Casual teachers must replace absent colleagues", Education, September 15). The State Government's Local Schools, Local Decisions is actually a deceitful ploy used to cut money to schools.

Because of this I do not get half the work I previously got. I have met many other casual teachers suffering financial hardship because of this policy.

I teach in both primary and high schools and have noticed a similar reduction of work in both areas. I previously received a fair bit of Casual Direct work, but now that has also been greatly reduced. One Casual Direct worker actually told me that she, herself, has very little work now.

Is it not possible for the Federation to demand that the Department does not reduce primary school release from face-to-face (RFF) time? Also, I hope that the Federation may be able to ensure that teachers do not take extra classes. Reduction of RFF and the taking of extra classes is a terrible backward step for all teachers.

PN Abel
Casual

The Editor responds: The DEC has made no move to reduce the entitlement to RFF. However, Local Schools, Local Decisions will continue to pressure schools to ignore entitlements. All members are urged to ensure that every teacher receives the RFF they are entitled to and that a casual is hired for every absence.

Look after each other

I have been struggling with feelings of anger and powerlessness about the future of TAFE and feeling unable to write a decent email as Fed Rep of my TAFE Branch, convinced that anything I wrote while I was in this state of mind would be negative and unhelpful.

I am sure that every teacher in TAFE who has looked at the implications of the introduction of Smart and Skilled next year is aware of the devastation it will cause in our colleges. The impact that I can see coming on program delivery, teachers, counsellors, consultants, students and the good name and work of TAFE is massive.

I decided yesterday that this negativity is exactly the emotional state that the government wants us to be in!

As I continued to reflect, I saw that what I was experiencing was very similar to what I went through when my favourite aunt died. (Some of you will be familiar with the stages of grief.) And then I thought to myself, hang on — there's a major difference here — TAFE isn't dead yet!

So once again I needed to remind myself that we must stand together and fight for what we believe in. My request to all Federation members is that you put the wellbeing of your colleagues in TAFE (both teaching and non-teaching) and current and future TAFE students above the self-interest of the government. The current coalition will survive in one form or another and they are looking out for themselves and their supporters. It is up to us to look after each other and our students, especially as we as a profession and a union have a long and proud history of championing the educational opportunities for the most disadvantaged groups of students. Supporting others will provide a framework of support for each of us as individuals.

I believe we must not allow the current NSW government and their actions to slash and burn, to destroy our wonderful public provision and professionalism, or to provoke us into turning upon each other. I believe we must be a model of professional behaviour and educationally sound judgements and reject their opportunist economic arguments. Remember the old union rallying call: United we stand, divided we fall!

Hold branch or school meetings to make sure all members are involved, informed and supported.

Kristine Highet
Fed Rep, Branch 3 Ultimo TAFE

Ethics classes growing in popularity

The growing popularity of primary ethics classes has resulted in a shortage of teachers.

Children enrolling in primary school can opt to attend ethics classes as an alternative to scripture classes or the non-scripture group.

There are currently 1500 volunteers with more than 1200 teachers delivering ethics classes to around 20,000 students in more than 300 schools.

The popularity of the classes is growing but finding enough teachers for the classes is proving to be difficult as there is no readily available "ethics community" to draw from.

Classes are taught by volunteers who are formally trained in Ethics and how to deliver a short lesson each week from a structured curriculum. These volunteers may be parents, friends or retired teachers.

Often parents would like their children to be involved in the classes but there is no teacher currently available.

It is desirable for a teacher to be able to commit to 30 minutes per week for a full school year and be able to facilitate discussion in a class of 8-22
Stage 1, Stage 2 or Stage 3 students.

A further difficulty faced in running the classes is finding an appropriate space in the school for the often lively discussions to take place — preferably where the children can all face each other and have their say.

Any person interested in being a volunteer ethics teacher is encouraged to visit the Primary Ethics website (www.primaryethics.com.au) and register an interest in becoming a volunteer.

The only way the opportunity to continue to offer the classes can occur is if new volunteers can be recruited.

Each school offering Ethics has a coordinator who is the point of contact for the volunteers.

Once contact is made by a potential teacher on the Primary Ethics website, the relevant coordinator will contact the volunteer to begin the recruitment process.

Claudette Rones
Casual

Responsibility

In previous years our journal, Education, has written in support of teachers in other countries who are oppressed and maltreated by their governments. In these instances I do not recall any letters to our Editor calling for Education "to be the leader in educational issues, not divisive political ones".

Where lies our responsibilities as teachers? Is it not to our students (read children)?

Does this responsibility apply only to our own students or should we stand for the rights of all children worldwide?

May I now refer to the Palestinian situation?

News reports claim of the 2100 Palestinians killed somewhere in the order of 470 were children. Of the 70 Israelis killed, three were children. The reports do not indicate the number of children who have suffered physical or emotional trauma, most likely because no one knows.

How many Palestinian children have had their schools destroyed?

As teachers, we should speak without bias against any regime that injures and oppresses children while suppressing their education.

Blame for the conflict rests on both Hamas and Israel. Hamas may futilely seek to destroy Israel and while Israel may claim not to wish to destroy Palestine her actions indicate a clear intention to suppress/oppress the residents of Gaza on the pretext of self defence against Hamas.

Early in the hostilities Israel, by heavy precision military ordinance, deliberately destroyed an electrical power generation facility in Gaza. The effect on the inhabitants of Gaza can only be imagined with difficulty. Severely reduced clean water supply, reduced food preparation, reduced refrigeration for food and pharmaceutical preservation, reduced sanitation as sewage treatment works were rendered inoperative and overflowing, reduced functioning of medical facilities and hospitals.

Such action appears to me to be one of intended genocide by disease rather than the suppression of indiscriminate rocket fire.

Consider a schoolyard situation of a fight between the school bully and the school weakling. Who bears the greatest responsibility?

What is a teacher's responsibility in such a situation?

Need I say more other than, in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict between adults the children of both sides are totally innocent!

Closer to home we need to seriously consider the plight of children in "illegal immigrant detention camps".

These children are suffering at the hands of those adults who wish to make political gain by "being tough".

Col Hodgson
Retired

Inappropriate comparison

Janet Mercur and Nick Benson (Letters, Education, September 15) commented, in part, on the inappropriateness of comparing Gaza to the Warsaw ghetto. As a child survivor of the Holocaust, I think that I am almost uniquely suitable to underscore those comments.

When the Red Army liberated the house whose Red Cross protection the Hungarian Arrow Cross disregarded, at age 3¾ I was a pallid version of the Eritrean skeletal waifs we see on TV. We see no starved Palestinian Arabs, children or adults.

When liberated, my ear was running pus and my mother had a broken back. Jews didn't get medical help. Israel set up a field hospital to help Gazans. Israel has for years treated casualties of the Syrian civil war.

When our food ran out my mother told my big sister, just 5, to take the food of a woman lying near to us. She had died. Israel allowed food supplies into Gaza even during the most recent conflict.

Even the open sores on my head were lice infested. We had no water to wash and barely enough to drink. Israel provides water to Gaza. Honouring agreements, it also provides water to Judea and Samaria. We can see Arabs clean and well fed.

My mother begged for someone to light a candle because she feared going blind in the unlit cellar. She got light when a shell blew a hole in the wall facing us. Israel continues to provide electricity to Gaza. And is not paid for it.

The Nazis crowded Jews inside ghetto walls to starve or be deported to death factories. Israel was denounced for erecting a barrier after thousands of its citizens were blown up and maimed.

When the butcher of Czechoslovakia, Reinhard Heydrich, was assassinated, the Nazis destroyed Lidice and killed all the men. That was collective punishment. Israel has not executed any Palestinian Arab for violence against its people.

People have narratives while organisations and nations have histories. One Nazi narrative was that Jews like me were sub-human, fit only for extermination. Another narrative is that the Jews have no connection to the land the Romans renamed Palestina in 136 CE.

Teachers have a duty to teach documented history and to not allow ideology to distort their perception of facts. The Warsaw ghetto's Jews died of starvation or gassing at Treblinka. Gaza is no ghetto. And those are facts.

Paul Winter
Retired

Voting mystery

A phenomenon which has gained prominence as a result of the Scottish Referendum is that only "nationals" living in Scotland were allowed to vote, not those living overseas.

It has always appeared to be a mystery as to why "expatriates" living permanently in another country sometimes with dual nationality always seem to be given voting rights in their home country.

We know of many Australians, some prominent, living permanently overseas in, for example, the USA or UK who are able to vote in Australian elections.

Is it not a paradox that people (expatriates) who are so serious about their home politics do not live in Australia and contribute to Australia's prosperity?

Bill Barwood
Retired

Entitled to our compassion

Janet Merkur's accusation of bias (Letters, Education, September 15) was a polemical exercise lacking any correlation with the facts. She claimed that Education's report of the $4100 donation to Union Aid Abroad-APHEDA's Gaza Appeal meant that Education supports the Hamas cause. The Education article reported that individual donations were made at August 2 Council, matched by the General Secretary, and a cheque for $4100 was sent to the Gaza Appeal. Arguing that reporting these facts somehow means Education supports Hamas is nonsense.

The donation went to support patients at the Red Crescent Society and hospitals and to distribute emergency resources to displaced families. At the time of the collection the United Nations had reported that in Gaza some of its schools sheltering refugees had been bombarded, 467 children had been killed and 1000 children had suffered injuries resulting in lifelong disabilities. The suggestion that a donation to support people in this situation means supporting Hamas is equivalent to arguing a donation to UNHCR's Syrian appeal is support for a particular militia.

Providing aid to refugees in Gaza is the humane thing to do, just as was providing aid to refugees from European countries in the 1930s, despite them being citizens of appalling regimes. This is not to compare the Nazis' treatment of German Jews with Israel's treatment of Palestinians, but to compare how public school teachers treat refugees from different parts of the world.

All humans in need, despite their ruling regimes' behaviour, are entitled to our compassion.

Michael Sciffer
Hay War Memorial HS

Not quite right

Thank you to the President of the Federation for supplying information on the staggering amounts of cash in Australia that has been accumulated by a small number of wealthy individuals ("President Writes", Education, September 15).

Allow me a few observations.

It has been said that very rich people have worked hard for their dollars. This is not so. The secret to immense wealth is to have other people work hard for the rich person's benefit.

I am also dismissive of tory treasurers and finance ministers who continue to put forward the myth of serious budget shortcomings. If government cash is "tight", then solutions include a re-introduction of death duties, a wealth tax, and a realistic tax on resources. These measures could be combined with a proper, well-funded government effort to close down tax avoidance across the nation.

It remains difficult to match the idea that our nation is among the top 12 economies in the world while some of the inner streets of Sydney play host to increasing numbers of beggars.

Something does not seem to be quite right.

Rob Quinn
Retired