Council discusses school issues

Helping increase the national voice of young people is Otago Boys’ High School pupil Rohan O’Shea...
Helping increase the national voice of young people is Otago Boys’ High School pupil Rohan O’Shea, 17. PHOTO: SIMON HENDERSON
A new initiative is providing a powerful platform for young voices.

Otago Boys’ High School pupil Rohan O’Shea and Kaikorai Valley College pupil Liza Piatova founded the New Zealand Secondary Schools Student Council last year.

Since then Liza has stepped away from the council but Rohan, as the council’s first president, has been busy making connections with high school pupils across the country.

The student council now has regional branches in locations in the Far North, Auckland, Waikato, Gisborne, Hawke’s Bay, Taranaki, Wellington, Nelson, Christchurch, South Canterbury, Central Otago, Invercargill and Dunedin.

Rohan said the aim was for each area to establish their own regional council, which would provide one or two representatives to the national student council.

Rohan has been busy on Zoom, not only meeting individual representatives, but also organising national meetings.

He estimated about 100 schools across the country were now engaged with the project, and he was hoping more would become involved as the year progressed.

So far the national council had met three times, and he was planning the first meeting for 2024.

Some of the big issues discussed so far included mental health, exposure to nicotine products and bullying.

‘‘We know that the mental health in our schools is simply not at a standard that’s good enough.

‘‘Because we have students who are suffering, and those students are not getting the help that they require.’’

A rise in nicotine addiction was another issue in schools.

While the number of young people smoking had reduced, a rise in vaping was now causing problems.

‘‘This is a new tobacco market. And when we have young people that are being exposed to nicotine in the high quantities that they are, of course they’re going to get addicted,’’ Rohan said.

Bullying in schools was the third big issue.

‘‘We acknowledge that you’re never going to reach a society where you have absolutely no bullying.

‘‘But we need to be supporting the school staff so that they are able to deal with issues when they come up.

‘‘Our deans and our principals have absolutely so much on their plates that they need to be supported more, so that students who need help are able to get the help as quickly as possible,’’ he said.