The Ashburton Guardian, COUNTY AGRICULTURAL & SPORTING RECORDER TUESDAY, MAY 18, 1880.
Some weeks ago, we took note of a very peculiar case of marine management that occurred at Wellington in connection with the steamer Manawatu. On board that steamboat an accident had occurred, by which the crown of the boilers sunk, and the safety of both ship and crew was imperilled. An inquiry into the facts brought out the startling intelligence that one engineer, the only qualified one on board, believed he shipped only for the purpose of enabling the owners or agent to comply with the shipping laws, that he received no pa}’, and was only taking a pleasure trip, doing nothing on board as an engineer, the whole work of attending to the engines being. done by a man who, whatever his skill, had no certificate, and in his hands the accident occu;red. A telegram informs us that legal proceedings are now to be taken on t.io fact elicited at the inquiry, and the captain is to he proceeded against for going to sea without a proper complement of men ; against the purser for falsifying ihe ship’s articles, (it having come out n evidence that he signed the nan e of the certificated engineer to the articles wifi out his consent or knowledge) and aga nst the agent of the vessel for fraudulently engaging men to go to sea. It will perh; p; be remembered that the engineer who, by his own statement enabled the agent to evade the law by taking a passenger on board the vessel, has up to this time been the only one of the lot of offenders who has suffered any punishment —he having had his certificate taken from him for six months.! 4. : Sir Hercules Robinson brought with him to this colony a character for being a man of man of some parts, and those of the Ashburton settlers who heard him deliver his reply to the County Council’s address when he turned the first sod of the Mount Somers Railway would be satisfied that the character he brought with him was not an undeserved one. Sir Hercules Robinson’s public utterances since he came to the colony, some nine or ten months ago, have not been man}’, but when he has opened his mouth he has always said something worth thinking over. Colonial Governors as a rule are not the most brilliant of British statesmen, and we in New Zealand are fortunate in having at our head a gentleman of Sir Hercules Robinson’s talent. Last week he spoke at the opening of the Wellington Normal School, a fitting and apt occasion on which to give his opinion of our much lauded educational system. Of this system of ours the fame is world-wide, and for instituting it the colony has gained golden opinions from all sorts of people in other countries. Wherever New Zealand is known, so also is the fact that her educational system is the most liberal of of any State under the sun, that it is free and unsectarian, and that under it no child brought up in the colony can possibly be without a knowledge of the three R’s, while education embracing a wider lange of subjects may easily be secured, if parents are but willing to keep their children at school. There is little to prevent this —certainly [no deterrent influence in the shape of school fees —and there is no direct taxation of any kind for the .support of the system. In a great measure, too, the educational affairs of the colony are directly in the hands of the people as represented in the Local Committees whom they elect, and through these in the Education Boards, the members of which are elected by the Committees. Altogether the education system of the colony is a grand one—and that is just what Sir Hercules has to say of it. Buthe says a good deal more. He asks whether the attempt to provide the “ machinery for supplying the whole youthful population of the colony with free education of the varied and advanced character embraced in the six standards will not entail upon the country an expenditure more heavy than can be borne. As to cost, however, he had to confess that when he contemplated the expenditure which primary education will entail on the general revenue, so soon as the scheme at present established by law is brought into full operation, the prospect appeared to him to beappaling.” It has had an appalling appearance to more than Sir Hercules Robinson ever since the system was adopted, but so much in love with the free and open handed gift of education were the majority of the people that those who dared to think it too costly had to say so with bated breath. Now’, how’ever, the Governor, after, as he says, several months of study of the Education Act and its administration, makes the statement boldly that the education given is altogether of too high a class for the colony to provide free, and soon the consolidated revenue will be unable to bear the cost. It is when we are brought face to face with hard figures on the subject that we begin to think of what the cost of the system is like, and the figures given by Sir Hercules, and given just before the meeting of Parliament, seems to us to indicate rocks ahead for the completely free character of New Zealand’s State education. He points out that in 1877, when the present Education Act came into force, Parliament wrote off £204,200 for purposes of primary education. In 1878 this sum increased to £317,923 ; and in 1879 to £368,457—0r, as Sir Hercules makes it, from £5 for every child in average daily attendance in 1877, to £6 12s. in 1878 and £6 14s. in 1879. His Excellency pointed out that the expenditure could not by any possibility be reduced below L 6 per head, if the present character of the education given were to be maintained, and at the natural rate of increase in attendance the colony would soon find itself face to face with an expenditure from the consolidated revenue of from £400,000 to £500,000 a year, and this upon primary education alone, and exclusive of the no mean cost of the Education Department, and what was expended upon higher and secondary education. His Excellency dealt with other features of our education system, but we are content to refer only to the question of cost, as being the most powerful factor, in the present state of the colony’s finance, for bringing about a change. Delivered just at the time it was, we are inclined to_ take the Governor’s speech as an indication of
what line legislation will take on education this year. And all things considered we fancy that a re-imposition of the household tax for education looms up in the near future, for it stands to reason that something more than a Parliamentary vote from the consolidated fund will be required to sustain an education costing £6 14s. for every child in average attendance. For this sum per annum in the old country something more could be obtained than a bare knowledge, and not very certain at that, of reading, writing, and arithmetic. Indeed, there are not many of the Grammar Schools, whose school fees amount to so much per head.
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