Moves are made to engage young people in politics

Palmerston North Girls' High School student Ruth Wright says young people are interested in politics.

Palmerston North Girls' High School student Ruth Wright says young people are interested in politics.

The knife-edge general election seems to have the whole country on tenterhooks, but it remains to be seen whether this will get young people to the ballot box. 

Statistically speaking, more elderly people stand at the booths and cast their vote than the freshly enrolled.

Just 14.25 per cent of people who are 70 or older did not vote out of the total enrolled in the 2014 election. This compares with 32.27 per cent of 18- to 24-year-olds that were enrolled to vote in 2014.

Ruth Wright, 18, represented Palmerston North as a youth MP last year and is now studying law and politics at Victoria University, and is excited to finally have the chance to vote in a national election. 

She's been passionate about politics for years and doesn't share the common belief that youth just aren't interested.

Wright said her peers cared deeply about specific issues, but too many didn't know the details of how New Zealand politics worked, or didn't believe the politicians shared their concerns. So they didn't engage with elections as deeply as other age groups did.

But if youth didn't seem to care about politics, politicians wouldn't care about youth, she said.

Palmerston North Girls' High School year 13 student Maya Paki said education about each party was lacking for students, which made it hard to choose who to support.

"I don't even think a lot of young people know what the parties are or stand for."

At the end of each school calendar year, many school leavers become eligible to vote.

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Freyberg High School principal Peter Brooks ensures the students of Freyberg High School have  been receiving useful information about the upcoming election.

"Richard Shaw from Massey spoke to our students about the importance of voting. This was very well received."

Brooks said the use of social media helped young people become more involved.

"To be honest, this election season has been engaging, with the use of social media."

Palmerston North Boys' High School deputy rector Gerard Atkin said the school aimed to prepare students to have an impact on their world, and voting was an important part of that. So the school had geared its social studies classes towards the big issues of the election, and supported senior students' efforts to share information with their peers.

The head prefects run an assembly each week. In the months leading up to the election, they've used them to show videos and hold discussions on current world events and issues and how they relate to New Zealand. 

Many of the videos feature a familiar face for the senior students. Newshub reporter Mitchell Alexander, who graduated from Boys' High in 2014, has been doing a video series with political reporter Patrick Gower on the MMP system, party policies and political leaders. This has formed the backbone of the prefects' programme.

 - Stuff


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