It takes the whole village to raise a child

2017-09-17 00:00

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One of my high school memories is of my principal ordering me to shave my dreadlocks off. I found his orders peculiar, as I saw nothing wrong with my hairstyle.

I was at the zenith of my adolescence, characterised by infernal impudence, and challenged him to give me money to please his demands. I knew inwardly that I disappointed him with my crude response, since he had invested his trust in me, both educationally and in my promising soccer career.

I liked my dreadlocks a lot. The girls were crazy about the bleached mop on my head, and I especially enjoyed hearing their spontaneous boisterous screams on the sidelines of a soccer pitch, shouting my name
every time I had the ball at my feet.

His dislike of my hairstyle didn’t stop and he kept on cajoling me to go bald. He asked one of the teachers to intervene – the same teacher happened to be my dad’s cousin, and the principal knew very well that I would ultimately oblige.

One day, when coming back from school, I saw a white Toyota jalopy parked at my grandmother’s house. I knew it belonged to that stooge of a teacher who would preclude my freedom at school.

As hard as I tried to keep looking good with my dreadlocks, they tried to knock sense into my head about the importance of listening to my teachers. I reluctantly relented and opted for a new hairstyle.

What brought this vivid memory back is the recent deplorable actions by Gauteng school kids who condescendingly boycotted classes, demanding to wear skinny pants. Just as I wanted to look good in my dreadlocks and refused to have a hair policy enforced on my head, they wanted to be at their elegant best in their tight-fitting pants.

To them, their actions, which left teachers and parents in shame, were impeccable as they wanted to make a fashion statement. But, to society, the proverb that “it takes a village to raise a child” was rendered futile.

These are the same youngsters who are envisaged as future leaders but, instead of treating school as an institution of learning, they turn it into a bastion of crime, where cases of beating teachers, carrying weapons to school and bullying other pupils are often heard of. I also didn’t like my khaki school uniform, but I had to wear it – not only because of school policy, but because it promoted a culture of homogeneity at school.

As much as I do not blame them for their actions, I think now is the time for teachers and parents to work in unison for the benefit of pupils’ futures. It is also unfortunate to state that, even if we can now start teaching the present generation about conventional behaviour in schools, we really need all the resources and power available to instil this kind of education into our community.

We may be theologically divided as a country, but I am of the opinion that religious education needs to be reintroduced as one of the subjects at schools.

This will serve as a divine clarion call to what God once prophesied in the book of 2 Chronicles 7:14 when He said: “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”

Gauteng Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi put it succinctly: “Few things in life are as clear as adolescents’ seemingly innate drive to assert their independent judgement of social affairs. It is not uncommon for middle and high school pupils to challenge various manifestations of authority, and openly voice their opinions about the justice of the situations they encounter at home and at school.”

I fully align myself with his sentiment, that some of this wayward behaviour is influenced by the adolescent stage during which issues such as alcohol, drugs and crime can contribute to the pupils’ unconventional conduct.

But teachers cannot do it alone. Parents must play a primary role and the community should also get involved. After all, it takes the entire village to raise a child.

Mogotlane is a public servant

Read more on:    panyaza lesufi  |  youth  |  education

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