A documentary released today highlights issues of inequality in New Zealand’s school zoning system.
Since 2011, Terrance Wallace has been running hostels in Auckland’s wealthiest suburbs for Māori and Pasifika youth so that they can attend some of New Zealand’s best schools.
“It was one of the solutions that I thought would make a difference,” he told Newshub Nation.
Mr Wallace says school zoning is segregating communities, meaning those in poorer areas are missing out on opportunities.
“I definitely believe that the zoning contributes to it.
“Before landing in Auckland I hadn’t realised how significant the zoning laws around the world were and how that isolated a group of people,” he says.
One of the main values or kaupapa of the InZone programme is taking the skills and knowledge you learn back to your community.
“With the success of InZone [in Auckland], I needed to practise what I preached,” Mr Wallace says.
The new documentary ‘In The Zone’ follows him as he takes the programme back to his home city of Chicago.
But heightened racial tensions in the United States made it a tough task.
“Being African American going into some of the most wealthy suburbs of Chicago, it was a threat on several sides.
“This was during the time when white police officers were gunning down African American males because of fear.
“At the same time, in the communities these kids come from - they were being gunned down in the midst of crossfire.”
Mr Wallace says it was a matter of life and death, with some parents fearing for their children’s safety.
“Parents deciding ‘I don’t want to send my kids to one of your InZone homes, yeah great education and resources but their lives might be taken by a police officer.”
“However, we made it through it. We didn’t get all of the kids that would have liked to come, but we did end up with a group of young men and now we’re in our second year.”
The two hostels Mr Wallace set up in Auckland are currently home to 48 boys and 24 girls. Living in the hostels means they are eligible to attend Auckland Boys Grammar School or Epsom Girls Grammar School.
“Obviously it’s not a solution for everyone and it’s not the big solver of all problems… but I believe what we’re doing long term is breaking cycles and cultural divides,
“I believe that we are building bridges and when our boys and girls are in positions of influence and authority that they’re going to be able to lead without discrimination as part of their leadership.”
Mr Wallace says that it’s vital more resources are put into Māori and Pasifika communities so that students there can have the same opportunities as those in wealthy areas.
“If you don’t invest into Māori and Pasifika families across the country then what you have is a constant divide, a cultural divide among people,”
“The country itself cannot be successful and be prosperous without having Māori and Pasifika at the table.”
'In the Zone’ is in cinemas nationwide now. Watch the video for the full interview.