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The Covid-19 crisis presents a chance to promote the value of education for people who might need to retrain to adjust to new conditions but Otago Polytechnic Students’ Association president Nathan Laurie is worried such messages risk getting lost.
"Planning for a future economy means next to nothing if we’re not taking the needs of students seriously."
Students regarded the Government’s support package announced last month with disdain, he said.
The $130million package was designed to help students continue their study amid the coronavirus crisis, or compensate them if they could not, and included changes to loans.
Mr Laurie told the polytechnic’s board last week that "too little, too late" was the feedback he had received.
"We’ve essentially been told to extend our debt to keep ourselves afloat during this national crisis."
The Government has indicated a second package will be prepared to enable the tertiary education sector to adjust to an expected swell of people looking to retrain.
The first package was designed to support students to stay engaged in their education.
Megan Gibbons, who will be the polytechnic’s chief executive from May 30, said the institute had a hardship fund to which staff contributed.
"And students have been accessing it, by all accounts."
The University of Otago set up a hardship fund last month for its students.
The fund was a way for staff, alumni and friends to provide meaningful support, vice-chancellor Harlene Hayne said.
- Grant Miller