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South Auckland technology hub for students loses lifeline

The founder of an after-school technology hub for Pacific and Maori students has slammed the government for discontinuing its funding.
Mike Usmar, who started Studio 274 in Otara in 2014, says they can no longer continue after the government severed its $700,000 yearly allocation.

An after-school technology programme in South Auckland will close this August. Photo/ Facebook: Studio 274.

Studio 274 which operates under the High Tech Youth Network was evaluated by consultants Martin Jenkins last November.
Their report said the network was unable to demonstrate long-term benefits for students.
Acting Head of Early Learning and Student Achievement, Pauline Cleaver, says HTYN's funds were from multiple sources, not just the Ministry of Education.
Usmar says he's lost a long drawn-out battle with the Ministry.
"I've spent about 15 months with the Ministry and have talked to about 17 different people," he says. "Ultimately Hekia Parata [former Minister of Education] thought that she would spend her money somewhere else." 
Usmar describes the programme as a vibrant learning hub that provides a safe after-school environment for hundreds of teenagers each week.
Studio 274 is based at Kia Aroha College and is involved with six other neighbouring schools in Otara.
"Every young person deserves a safe and creative place to go to after school. It's great for the country to have this opportunity and for families who can't afford to pay for private school care to go to."
On top of the funding cut, Usmar says the Ministry has also insisted their property be removed or demolished. He says the community raised funds for their $2 million facility and they might lose that too.
"We wanted to hand back some of the assets to the community that we're working in," he says. "They've decided that it's not acceptable so they want us to remove the building or demolish the building."
Usmar says if the Studio 274 clubhouse is not sold this month, the Ministry of Education is insisting it be demolished.
He says his after-school programme is a better youth initiative than the government's plans for youth military boot camps. 
"It's wreckless working with government and vulnerable children. They're already vulnerable, communities that struggle and then the government decides to kick them in the gut and take away all the assets the community has raised money for."
The government launched a $1 million fund for projects to strengthen digital technologies in schools in August 2016 and the Ministry says HTYN were able to apply but chose not to.
The Studio 274 clubhouse will close on August 26. 

Tags: education, South Auckland,