For many school-leavers, the facts of everyday life - buying a car or knowing about employment rights - are foreign concepts. Hayley Hannan looks at an attempt to make life easier outside school.

Simone Te Hore and Tina Young beam at each other, excited about university next year. The two 17-year-olds are finishing their school exams at Edgewater College and looking forward to a summer break.

After school, like many other students, they will enter the adult world. But, with independence comes responsibilities, such as looking after their finances, assets and relationships.

Pakuranga Citizens Advice Bureau's youth liaison, Leeanne Graham, says young adults often have no idea how to get help or information to deal with such responsibilities. "Until they come across a situation, they can't anticipate what's going to happen in their lives. When they come across it, then they say, 'Where do you go?'."


The advice bureau is trying to remedy this by giving out "info2go" packs. The shoulder bags hold free information on legal and consumer rights, employment, banking, immigration, transport, identification and personal relationships. About 400 bags have been handed out at Botany, Edgewater, Sancta Maria and Mangere College to Year 13 students under the pilot project.

Mrs Graham came up with the idea after her three teenage children asked for similar advice. She realised the Citizens Advice Bureau had more in-depth information than she could supply, and started to compile the bags. "[The bureau] believes in empowering people rather than just 'rescuing' them," she says. "We want them to feel able to help themselves and we provide the information and resources they need to do this."

Ban Naddas appreciates the information, having recently received her pack. The Mangere College student works, and finds the employment rights section the most useful. "To be honest, I had no idea [about this information] until they gave me all this stuff. I'm just going to read everything thoroughly so I have good knowledge about everything."

The bags have been well received by school management. Sancta Maria College's Year 13 dean, Taniya Bassi, says the students are extremely grateful. "The information is current and pertinent as it will support them in being responsible citizens of New Zealand," she says. Mrs Graham hopes the pilot will expand to other schools and bureaux next year.

Another 50 packs have been given to other citizens advice offices and the head office.

The plan is to organise funding, hand out bags to more schools, and place cards and posters around Year 13 common rooms.

Mind the gap

Liz Gordon, chairperson of the Quality Public Education Coalition, feels school curriculums should include more life skills. She says the education system needs to incorporate values, civic and ethics information and situations.

"There's a lot of stuff that can be taught [to] get people to consider their own role as citizens," she explains. "Most people don't vote because they don't understand the importance of it."

Children should be taught how to examine their values, she says, starting at primary school level.