Paul Little: Life too precious to waste a day

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Two-year-old triplets Lillie, Jackson and Willsher Weekes, who died in a fire in Doha. 
 Photo / Supplied
Two-year-old triplets Lillie, Jackson and Willsher Weekes, who died in a fire in Doha. Photo / Supplied

No one with a shred of humanity can contemplate the terrible ends of 2-year-old Lillie, Jackson and Willsher Weekes without feeling enormous distress, and without knowing that this distress cannot possibly approach that of the parents and grandparents.

It is all too easy to believe their grandfather Ron Turner when he said, "I can't see how I will ever be happy again".

Most people at some point have to deal with the sudden and premature death of someone close to them. The Weekes case is made all the more terrible by the ages of the children, that they were triplets and that they had already fought and survived the challenge of being born prematurely.

Multiple births are proverbially hard work and frequently described as a mixed blessing - but the emphasis is always on "blessing".

I know how lucky I am to have shepherded five children to adulthood. I call it luck because from the moment you have a child, one of the first things you learn is how fragile life is.

Even the most cautious parent can't guard against every possibility. From the time the first one could crawl I was acutely aware of how many ways he could come to harm and amazed that he never did.

As if to point out this lesson, the day the Weekes children died, 10 other children survived. The intermediate school girls were on a camp in the Kaimai Ranges when they became lost. A wrong turn in the darkness, a change in the weather or any one of numerous other possibilities over which humans have no control could have seen them suffer a very different end. Their families must be doubly glad they found themselves at the right point on fortune's wheel this week.

A tragedy such as that endured by the Weekes is a reminder that we are all at the mercy of an indifferent universe. Life is not just or fair and once we realise that a lot else becomes clear. We must make the most of the time we have so that we can look back at years of happiness - however brief.

The dreary, day-to-day quibbles and whines in which we indulge, about everything from taxes to telemarketers, politicians to peak-hour traffic, are as nothing compared to the enjoyment that we can wring from the life we are lucky enough to have.

WHETHER YOU call it a backtrack, sidestep or flip flop, the decision to continue forcing schools to either increase class sizes or reduce the number of subjects taught, particularly specialist subjects, is short-sighted.

It's hard to see what subjects could be more valuable to society in the long run than those that will fall by the wayside in the latest tinkering with the education system: materials and electronics technology, graphics and design technology, cooking. In short - inventing and making things. Isn't that what we do in this country?

They are also subjects kids love. They can make the difference between a student learning to love getting an education or finding it irrelevant.

And it's even more important in decile 1 schools where kids are less likely to be exposed to these alternatives at home, what with Mum and Dad working double shifts to keep up with the rent and the heating bills.

Educational excellence, the capital we invest in our country's future, is being sacrificed in the name of "austerity" and a misguided, failing economic orthodoxy. It's a case of another irreplaceable national asset - our young people's minds - being flogged off for short term gain and long-term regret.

- Herald on Sunday

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