An unpopular opposition policy to punish early school leavers in New Zealand took an unlikely twist when the singer’s fans got involved
Eleanor Ainge Roy in Dunedin
It started with a plan floated by New Zealand’s opposition party to fine early school-leavers. Somehow it ended with an unlikely campaign to keep pop star – and high-school dropout – Lorde out of jail.
Last week domestic media reported the opposition National party was considering fining the parents of early-school leavers NZ$3,000 if it won next year’s election. The fine would apply to the parents of students who were not progressing onto further study or employment. It is currently legal to leave high school at 16 in New Zealand.
The proposal was widely derided as draconian and heavy-handed, with many news outlets compiling lists of successful New Zealanders who left school early, including Lorde, choreographer Parris Goebel who works with Rihanna and Justin Bieber, All Black Sonny Bill Williams and even the National party’s deputy leader Paula Bennett.
Lorde was a student at Takapuna grammar school in Auckland until 2013, when she left to pursue her budding music career.
The mention of Lorde’s name unleashed a slew of passionate memes, expressing concern that Grammy-award winning Lorde could face jail time or a hefty fine for failing to finish high school. Neither of these things will happen.
“Lorde saved us and the music industry with Melodrama. It is our turn to save Lorde,” one fan joked.
“Lorde rides the subway because the New Zealand government suspended her license until she pays her fine” wrote another, tagging her post under the hastag #freelorde.
“Imagine wanting to imprison an artist who made NZ so famous and well known for a having a talented 16 year old girl, Lorde who her concerts were being sold in minutes and Royals is a #1 hit and changed the pop music… we gotta save Lorde till we die” wrote another fan.
Lorde’s management team has been contacted for comment, and the singer has so far stayed quiet on her legal status.
The National party has been contacted regarding the details of its school-leavers policy and whether the fine could be applied retroactively.
New Zealand has one of the highest rates of truancy in the OECD with more than 250,000 New Zealand children failing to regularly attend school last year.
Prime minister Jacinda Ardern has said she doesn’t agree with National’s school-leavers policy, and that families who struggle to get their kids to school need more welfare support.