Child poverty is currently exercising the minds of the nation. I am part Maori. While our parents were very poor, they always managed to clothe and feed us well. We were self-sufficient in vegetables, fruit and poultry.
My seven siblings and I were fortunate our parents valued education even though they themselves were denied meaningful education. They wanted us to do well in the world and do better than they had done. That should be the wish of all parents, but sadly it is always not so. Seven of us attained tertiary educational qualifications and the other one - who could easily have done so as well -- got a job in a government department, advancing to a senior position.
From the time that I established my medical general practice in 1973, I advised young patients to delay parenthood until they had enough money for a deposit on a house - and the mortgage be managed by one person - before they had their first child. I also advised reliable contraception, limited family size and the value of education.
A vast majority - including Maori and Pasifika people - did limit their family size, to what they could afford. I advised one woman - who already had ten children - to consider tubal ligation. She replied ''Thank you doctor! No one's ever said that to me before". There's a message in that reply. Such simple advice by more people could perhaps have resulted in families with fewer children.
I used to say to - especially to my Maori and Pasifika couples that each child costs the purchase price of a Porsche, to raise to financial independence, especially if tertiary education is included. Some couples had ten or more ''Porsches" in the house.
While I appreciate that things have changed over the years, the principle remains the same. If you have more children than you afford - so that they cannot achieve financial independence - you shouldn't have so many.
AdvertisementAdvertise with NZME.
If a girl and boy - barely out of childhood themselves - have a baby, they will face a life of financial and social hardship, with the great possibility that the father will desert mother and baby. Worse still, both partners will go on to have successive partners and more children, creating great social problems and a common factor in the Maori world, child murder.
Some parents do not value education. I recently heard Winnie Laban being interviewed on television. She said that immigrant parents bring their children to New Zealand to be educated and enter a good occupation. Education is a passport out of poverty.
Many Maori and Pasifika people have big families, or numbers that they cannot afford. We often hear them complaining on television that they don't have enough money to feed their eight children, when the only earner is a labourer.
The answer does not lie with band-aid political party bribes. Some parents do not realise that the answer to their problem can be solved by smaller families and people, not by bigger houses.
The former will have great medical, social and educational benefits for the individual and great fiscal benefit for the country. They are some of the factors causing the development of a plethora of food banks and burgeoning need for charitable people to supply breakfast, shoes and raincoats to these disadvantaged children.
* David Yates is a former GP