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Ardern, Collins showed little understanding of Covid-19 impact on struggling students - head girl

The head girl of a South Auckland high school says last night's leaders' debate showed there was little understanding between the two major political parties and the impact of Covid-19 on low decile students.

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Aorere College head girl Aigagalefili Fepulea'i Tapua'i said there was no sense of understanding from Jacinda Ardern and Judith Collins during last night's TVNZ leaders' debate. Source: Breakfast

Aorere College head girl Aigagalefili Fepulea'i Tapua'i was one of several to put questions to Labour leader Jacinda Ardern and National leader Judith Collins during the debate, which was televised on TVNZ.

In one of the more memorable moments of the night, Tapua'i asked what the next Government would do for low decile students who have been forced to drop out of school to support their families due to the economic impacts of Covid-19.

She told TVNZ1's Breakfast this morning she didn't feel she had received the answers she had been seeking from Ardern and Collins.

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Aigagalefili Fepulea’i-Tapua’i’s post on the realities for Pasifika youth under lockdown went viral last week. Source: Tagata Pasifika

"Unfortunately, no, I don't think I did, and I say that because I have to ask myself whether I feel that our students feel like they're supported, like they're seen and they are considered during the debate and from those responses," she explained. "I don't think that was the case.

"We felt there wasn't much understanding around the nuances and intersections of what it means to be a low decile student, what it means to be Samoan or Pacific Islander, and what it means to live lives like ours and I think that's something that really needs to be worked on if you're going to find solutions to this problem that we have."

Collins last night said the Government must get people into trades, as well as ensure there are jobs, while Ardern said the students' parents must first be provided with an adequate income for them not just to survive, but to thrive.

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TVNZ leaders' debate: Judith Collins and Jacinda Ardern battle on wages, tax and poverty

Tapua'i said, however, that she doesn't believe there is enough being done "to a degree that our students deserve".

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Aorere College head girl Aigagalefili Fepulea’i-Tapua’i says many students have had to leave school to support their families. Source: 1 NEWS

"I definitely feel like a lot of the answers we got were more based on their own personal experiences, not really on the engagement they might have had with our students."

She called for the party leaders to meet with students who were forced to leave school due to the impact of Covid-19 to achieve "a more clear understanding" of the nuances informing their decisions.