Three of four of my children are in the schooling system. They attend a fantastic public school close to home. Like most mothers I adore my children’s natural abilities. Like most mothers, I see my children as bright, talented unique individuals who each have their own special interests. Every morning they make breakfast, I pack lunch and then I drop them off at school. We are very lucky and privileged to have a school that has all the facilities required for a functional and full school life, complete with all the free after school activities necessary to expose them to new things, and wonderful, dedicated teachers who are passionate about teaching our future leaders.
For five hours while I am working from home, my children are learning language, maths and basic life skills. Then 1pm comes. Home time. Homework. I usually help them complete the whole week’s homework on Monday so they can play outside for the rest of the week. This is a system they have adopted because they recognise that a little bit of pain on Monday is worth all the fun the rest of the week. And it keeps me sane too.
My oldest wants to grow up to look after and rehabilitate parrots. He also wants to build new kinds of bow and arrows. Some of his talents I can see lie in speaking, singing, maths and he is a fast thinker. He is a very social boy whose favourite subject at school is ‘break time’.
My second boy is 100% an athlete; he is excellent at rugby and runs super-fast. He wants to become a palaeontologist one day, a desire he has had since 3 years old. He is my introvert who likes to dream and be alone. He is very caring and thoughtful. I believe he has an inventors mind. His favourite subject is art.
My Grade R girl is diligent and hardworking. She actually loves school work. She also loves justice. She never fails to tell someone if they are breaking the rules and finds immense joy in artwork and drawing. She likes to participate in everything available. She is mature beyond her years and I look forward to seeing what her specific talents and interests are as she gets older. One day when she’s big, she wants to get married and have 10 children(!!!)
I write this not to bore you with details of my children, but to give context. Every time I drop them off at school I feel uneasy. I feel uncomfortable. I feel like I am killing their spark, that I am killing their creative genius that is still very much alive. The longer they are at school, as the years go by, the more they will learn to be reasonable and to have reasonable and achievable goals. I am not happy with that. I want my children to use their naturally-born talents to reach beyond the stars and follow their passion. I don’t care if they don’t go to university or don’t get a normal job. I don’t care if they don’t lead what society calls a normal life. I do care that they make a positive difference in this world. My biggest hope is that they will live a life they love, where they can each do something that they are good at, that they find meaning in, to contribute to the betterment of society in some way or the other.
In a system that demands absolute conformity, I want my children to question everything. I want them to rebel against injustice. I want them to speak their mind (respectfully). I also want them to experience the joy of active living.
The school system conditions children to easily be able to fall into modern-slavery work-life. Cold desks, grey walls, school bells, uniformity - not that different to the office environment. I fear that every passing school day, children are learning to deny their individuality and to rather fit in, that their dreams are silly or that only special people become rugby stars, brain surgeons or presidents. I fear that the method of teaching is dumbing down our children instead of inspiring them to make the impossible, possible. I don’t have all the answers but one thing I do know, is that the school system must change. We are potentially robbing South Africa of the creative genius needed to overcome the many challenges our nation faces.
I have started a Facebook campaign to initiate dialogue from parents, teachers, pupils, ex-pupils and anyone interested in the future of South Africa. We cannot blame the government for everything that is wrong if we do not work together to create the vision for what we want in our country.