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Raglan students’ demonstration for Moko to help raise awareness of child abuse

Raglan Area School students are holding their own demonstration for Moko, the three-year-old Taupo toddler whose life was cruelly cut short in 2015 at the hands of his abusive caregivers.

About 20 senior social studies students will demonstrate against child abuse at the water tower on Monday 27 June at 8am, on the same day that Moko Rangitoheriri’s killers are to be sentenced for manslaughter.

The Sensible Sentencing Trust has also organised a national March for Moko to be held on Monday, which could see protests outside every high court in New Zealand. In Raglan, a community march, organised by Raglan Community Board member Lisa Thomson, will be held for Moko after the school demonstration, from 9am-10am. The Raglan Justice for Moko March will start at the water tower and end in the centre of town.

Year 12 student Mya Leabourne says the class has been following the Moko tragedy as part of their NCEA learning, working on an achievement standard that “requires us to describe a social justice and human rights action.”

Moko died in Taupo hospital on August 10, 2015, after being subjected to repeated sadistic child abuse by his carers, Tania Shailer and David Haerewa. He had been hit, kicked, bitten, thrown, dropped and stomped on.

“We felt so strongly about it we decided we wanted to do something,” says Mya.

In May, after Shailer and Haerewa pleaded guilty to manslaughter, a charge reduced from murder, thousands of people nationwide marched for Moko, who has come to symbolise domestic violence in New Zealand.

The Sensible Sentencing Trust is calling for a royal commission of inquiry into how Moko’s horrific death came to be reduced to the “shallow charge of manslaughter”.

Mya says the student demonstration is to inform the public about New Zealand’s appalling child abuse statistics, and “that something needs to be done about it”.

“We have the fifth worst child abuse record out of 31 OECD countries.

“On average, one child is killed in every five weeks in New Zealand.

“One child is hospitalised every second day from assault, neglect or mistreatment.

“Most abused children are under five, and one-year-olds are at the most risk.

“We have a responsibility to treat people in a humane way.”

Mya says it is everyone’s responsibility to “step up, step out and speak up” if they know a child is being abused.

She says the students have been working hard to make placards for the demonstration, and would appreciate community support at the event.

Social studies teacher Naomi Tovio says after researching the case, her class felt terrible for Moko.

“What the class couldn’t understand was how no-one who knew the offenders and the situation could have not known what was going on and spoken out.

“As we were already researching different types of social action, the class decided that child abuse was an issue that they could stand up for and raise awareness of within the Raglan community.”

Ms Tovio says a demonstration is an effective way to inform and educate people. Organising the demonstration is a learning opportunity for the students, and at the same time they are exercising their human rights and responsibilities, she says.

Inger Vos

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