Asylum-seeker children aged under-15 continue to be denied the right to attend schools in Tasmania, despite the state government’s strong desire to educate them “outside the wire”.
After criticism from the state Children’s Commissioner, it was yesterday announced that up to 150 children aged 15 to 17 would be allowed to attend Hobart Polytechnic colleges from Monday.
However, children aged under-15 held at the same Pontville detention centre, north of Hobart, continue to be denied the right to attend school.
Tasmanian Children’s Commissioner Aileen Ashford said she was “baffled” by the refusal to release under-15s at Pontville into local schools.
“It’s very unfair for the majority of those young people to be leaving Pontville while the others are left sitting there,” Ms Ashford said.
“You’d feel pretty hard done by as a young person in that situation. After all, the right to an education applies to all children. I’d like to know why and exactly what is the issue with the young ones.
“There are only a very small number of them — I’m aware of only one 13 year old and four 14 year olds — so that makes it even easier to transport them to local schools. And there is a stack of local schools.”
The Immigration Department refused to say why the children under-15 were still not being allowed to attend schools, what the barriers were, or even how many children in this age group were held at Pontville.
A spokeswoman was not able to say why this information was unavailable, except that it may relate to “privacy concerns”.
Education Minister Nick McKim said he hoped to finalise an agreement with the Gillard government soon to allow the younger children to attend schools.
“I am determined to ensure they can be educated in our government school system,” he said.
Mr McKim, one of two Greens MPs in the power-sharing cabinet, said the 15-17 year olds would learn English and elements of social and environmental studies and maths.
“It’s a fantastic result for these minors who shouldn’t be in a detention centre at all,” he said. “But I’m really pleased that I’ve been able to negotiate a way through here which will see them educated outside the wire.”
The Immigration spokeswoman said Pontville, which can hold up to 260 children, currently held 142 minors. The number of children can change from week to week as detainees are moved.
She said discussions with the Tasmanian Education Department relating to the under-15s were making “good progress” and that these children were receiving some tuition inside the centre.Source: The Australian – Still no school for asylum under-15s
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