When the president announced the fate of schools for the next four weeks, I had mixed emotions about it and honestly wasn’t in the mood to listen to yet another presidential speech. The academic year has been a bust since lockdown started and I couldn’t see a way we could save it. Salvageing certain aspects of the curriculum was doable yes, but there was no way kids could be expected to successfully complete this year and actually learn all they possibly can even from a trimmed curriculum. They had been set up for failure by our government and us as parents.
For the past couple of months I’ve gone from hero worshipping the president, to slightly annoyed, to just not watching what he has to say because I don’t want my telly to give ratings to a bad tv show. I am tired of smoke and mirrors. I want to know what happened to the 500 Billion and I need to know why we continue making bad financial decisions for the country. Why we are allowing funds to be misappropriated during this time. I want to know why proper monitoring is not being done. Whose head needs to be on a chopping block? I don’t want to hear the president address the nation like we’re a bunch of rebellious kids. I am not a rebellious kid.
I wear the blasted mask that is messing with my breathing, and I sanitize the whole day because when the president washed his hands of us in May and said that our health is in our own hands, I felt that. Not only that, I truly do believe that our health is on our ow hands. Unlike humans, Covid19 does not exercise prejudice.
Since school started at the beginning of June, we’ve seen only 50% of our kids. Parents fear for their kids safety. I’m a mom too and it scares me to think that my kids will be exposed to hundreds of other people during their school trips. Have you ever thought about how many people a single child comes into contact with? How much larger the risk? But I’m a school marm too so my opinion is not just that of a regular mom. The amount of times we need to remind kids of social distancing or reprimand them for not wearing their masks. Honestly guys, I laughed at the memes but I knew how much truth there was in it. I fear for these kids too because they are reckless and don’t necessarily comprehend the seriousness of Corona. My medical and scientific friends will say my fears are unwarranted but here’s the thing… Just because a kid doesn’t get sick or the case is not severe, it doesn’t mean that they can’t be carriers of it. Wasn’t that the whole point of lockdown? The virus itself can only be spread as we move around.
True/False : No one can get sick at school as the virus is spread in communities.
Ok, so let’s say I bite on that one and agree that it’s true, because to an extent it is true. And let us assume that a school itself is not a community. Schools remain open and we carry on with business unusual. We sanitize and wash our hands regularly. We keep ourselves safe and in so doing we keep each other safe. The infection rate increases regardless because there is movement. The virus now has more carriers but kids don’t get sick because the experts say so. The same experts who haven’t found a cure yet. The same experts who advised the national command centre that it is safe to open the economy regardless of the actual safety during the peak.
If I don’t bite and I say it’s false, you can guess that I believe that the virus can and will be spread. All the virus needs is a carrier. A classroom with twenty or less kids does not guarantee that spreading will not occur. A school is a community of its own. Educators and school staff can try their utmost to sanitize the entire day but there are always loopholes. The risk is there. No I’m not a medical expert and I do believe that we do have some measure of control but we are not invincible. And no expert is going to convince me otherwise. If that happens, I may just start believing in unicorns. Are you confused yet or is it just me? Now that that’s out of the way, allow me to get into the nitty gritty…
The academic year can’t be saved.
Call me a pessimist but there is just no way. Let’s be real… Not all schools are equal and if truth be told, only privileged school kids will be able to finish this year and have enough knowledge to complete the grade successfully. Kids like my school kids, who come from disadvantaged backgrounds and communities will not be able to thrive. Mindsets are different amongst both parents and kids and as we all know by now, the South African education system does not cater only to privileged schools. If that were the case then we wouldn’t be having this conversation. Not all parents or kids have access to internet or even the facilities to have zoom meetings or get lessons on Google Classrooms. My own kids have the privilege but my school kids don’t. Plenty of parents don’t have the funds to send their kids to school right now because of loss of income. Plenty of kids don’t even have proper meals.
Yet when many of us speak of the school situation, we allow our own privilege to form the word “BUT”. We agree that schools shouldn’t be closed because our kids are losing out on school work. Kids need stimulation that we as parents are not able to provide. They need human interaction too. To be surrounded by their peers. It’s an important facet of being a kid. It’s similar to us mom’s needing to have adult conversation with people other than our spouses at times. We acknowledge this and at the same time we don’t really get that education is not just about our own kids.
It’s about thousands of other kids who is being failed because they do not have the same privilege we do. Remember, I don’t agree with schools being closed either. I just don’t see how it is acceptable that some kids are being left behind. We raise our voices saying how strongly we feel about schools closing because our kids will be disadvantaged. We seem to understand that there are innocent kids that will have to suffer the consequences BUT why can’t our kids get the education they so rightfully deserve? Why is the government picking on us and our kids? We have money and our kids schools are sorted so why us? I mean, it’s sad that kids will be left behind BUT it’s not our kids so why should our kids have to suffer? It’s not our faults the education system is failing them. Right? These are some of the thoughts and opinions I get when reading some posts and comments sections so don’t be mad at me. I’m not coming at you. I’ve merely taken some of the “feels” I got on the interwebs and woven it into a paragraph.
Those people who seem to know what happens in all communities who generalizes when they say things like “The kids can’t go to schools but they’re on the road the whole day.” The keyboard ninjas who believe it’s their right to say it like they see it. Like they’ve seen everything. The department officials that tell me the same kinds of crap because of the low attendance rates of our kids. How they think that the kids will run to the corners to watch gang shoot outs but they won’t come to school. Yeah guys, I see and hear too much privilege going around. Everyone believing their own tales of a certain demographic and then telling anyone who cares to listen. And sometimes they think I care to listen because I seem like them. Privileged. So I must share the same kind of judgemental attitude also right? Because privilege allows us to judge.
Can you sense the privilege yet? Can you tell that this has nothing to do with race? That this has more to do with social standing and us having a sense of entitlement because we have a bit more money than the next person. That because we can afford certain things we neglect to fully grasp what the other half has to endure. The risk it poses to our economy in the long run. The risk of fallen youth. Not just your kids and mine. Every kid in South Africa deserves a chance and blaming the government, casting stones at each other instead of helping everyone rise is not going to get us anywhere. The village people speak of will never come to fruition if we continue to think about ourselves and forgetting about our future generations. You do realize that your kids will have to live with and amongst the same kids who are grossly disadvantaged?
Last week I was slapped with a race card when it was actually supposed to be a privilege card. A very misplaced one, but I was slapped with a card nonetheless.
A young man visited my office requesting school assistance to rewrite his NSC exams which he did not obtain two years ago. Instead of asking the question he came at me in a roundabout accusatory fashion how black people weren’t given opportunities. I was flabbergasted because last time I checked, that was not how you ask questions or help. When I asked him to “come again” he changed his tune and said spoke of the working class being denied opportunities. By that time my mind was reeling. I mean, I’m part of the working class and I don’t feel entitled to help. I don’t accuse people of denying me anything because I so desperately need their help. I don’t feel entitled to help. The world owes me nothing. It doesn’t owe my kids anything either. My son is a first year varsity student and as a working class WOC I work my behind off to afford him his education. My husband works twelve hour shifts and we weren’t born with silver spoons in our mouths. Heck, we go without so much just to be able to afford to provide for the privilege our kids enjoy.
When I entered the workforce fresh from college, I was turned down for so many jobs because of Affirmative Action that my career in Toursim never launched. I know this because many companies told me that. My name and skin colour wasn’t good enough. Demographics be damned. The colour of my skin is good on paper and then only when it serves a purpose. So I did what many people before me did and used every available opportunity I could grab hold of to make a life for myself. While my diploma meant nothing, the subjects I had could give me some direction. I was empowered to a certain extent while navigating my way through life and being a sponge. I was eager to learn and move up and on to the next big thing. So a kid giving me lip, trying to shove a race and even a privilege card down my throat, guys that doesn’t sit well at all. We are not all born of privilege and we need to stop looking at people and judging without knowing their circumstances. We have no right to when we don’t know their journeys.
At the same time I look back at my encounter with the young man and after cooling down, I realize that yes, I am part of the privileged community now. He was not too far off with his speculation. It’s still somewhat misplaced but I am able to afford more than the basics. Maybe it’s the fact that I don’t have a poor mentality. The fact that I live in a disadvantaged community but don’t see myself as disadvantaged. That I don’t believe my worth is attached to the material things. And that privilege is not a dirty word. Some of us are privileged and that’s ok. What’s not ok is allowing our privilege to downplay what is happening in the world. When we believe that everything is about us and our kids only. When we think that our money makes us better than others. Our circumstances may differ but when stripped of everything, will we still believe in the fairnes or unfairness of the status quo? My biggest problem with privilege is how we choose to sometimes look past other people and their situations. How easily we get offended by people who call us out. Don’t get me wrong, when someone calls me out, their reasons had better hold water because my blood, sweat and tears are what got me where I am. Then again, let my ego never take over my life so that I can’t see others pain and frustration.
My reasons for schools remaining open has nothing much to do with my girls schooling for this year. Privilege allows me a support system, resources and facilities for my girls to experience as little disruption as possible As we salvage what we can of this academic year. It’s still not ideal but we have opted for them to do distance learning when the opportunity came up so we kind of have a rhythm. My heart does bleed for all the kids who have fallen through the cracks of our government though. The fact now that inequality has been exposed, more focus is on political parties fighting each other in power struggles using the kids as collateral when they really should top wasting time and working on finding a solution that will benefit all. One that will not leave any child behind. Can we all just use our privilege for the greater good and fight for all our kids?
Why I believe schools should not have closed:
As the economy opened up, parents had to start working and not everyone has a reliable support system to care for their kids when they’re at work.
Schools are not just there for academics. It’s a safe haven for many kids. Many kids rely upon the feeding schemes for what could possibly be their only meals for the day.
The further disruptions leave kids even more confused than what they currently are. Kids need stability. Poor matriculants are more anxious than they were at the beginning of the year and are not all equipped with dealing with our new normal. Many of us adults still don’t know how to deal with it so can we really expect the kids to cope. Sure kids are resillient but they need to start somewhere.
Schools can be of the safest spaces during this time. Guys, none of this is in our job descriptions but nothing of being a school marm ever is written in the fine print. One of our hats is to ensure your kids safety and that takes priority. Our fear is what keeps us all safe and if that means us moaning and nagging about social distancing, sanitizing and masks the whole day, we will. We moan the whole day everyday in any case. We get paid to do that. Just call me “Aunty Skellie”.
Life is not black or white. There are so many shades of grey that is not being acknowledged for what it is. People are crying out and dying. Whether it’s their mortality or their souls. They. Are. Dying. Let us not diminish them by saying “We understand BUT…”