Raising rebels at home

2016-09-28 06:00
Eugene Maree Foto:

Eugene Maree Foto:

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THIS is a reality – children of all ages are left with caregivers, often seeing their biological parents once a year.

How did this happen? As far as I can figure it out, it is accepted as tradition that African children are being left with grandparents, to be taken care of whilst mothers and fathers are working elsewhere.

I can assume that this practise is partly to blame on the mining industry, which forced fathers to work away from home for extended periods of time, only allowing a few days leave once a year.

It has been impacted in recent years by the effects of HIV/Aids and many other modern diseases.

Whatever the reason, is this a practice that should still be in place today? Does a child not deserve to be with his parents?

Does the fact that he lives with grandparents or family members have a negative impact on his education? It certainly does.

The children that I daily come across in our school, is a mixed bunch. Many of them are very privileged to live with their parents Z both of them. Many others have to be satisfied with having only one parent at home.

This may be due to a parent working in another country, province or town; or a traditional single parent situation, where one parent has died, or parents have been divorced, or even situations where mom never got married.

Siblings often have different surnames, because they have different fathers. Many of our children are dropped off with grandparents Z often only one grandparent, as well. This is done because mom or dad cannot provide care for the child as he or she has to work.

How does this affect our children’s education? It depends on the situation. In many cases that I deal with, grandparents are educated people, sometimes still working.

This is normally a perfect solution, as these grandparents have experience in time management, and often these students turn out to be amongst the top in their classes, surpassed only by those who live in a normal household with biological parents.

Sometimes grandparents or care givers are not well educated, and this creates a lot of problems.

Especially to children who are expected to attend an English or Afrikaans school, as the grandpa-rent is unable to assist with the homework, etc. I have found that such grandparents, in an effort to hide their own inadequacies, would rather not do any work with the child, and would not even ask about homework.

The child is encouraged to watch TV as it is “educational”.

These children arrive home from school, drop the schoolbag somewhere and position themselves in front of the TV, in most cases an expensive DStv package. If only they were required to watch educational programmes like The History Channel or National Geographic, but they watch cartoons.

When bored they reach for a cell phone or tablet, and promptly engage in whatever it is that they do with the technology. (And mostly not age-appropriate content.) I have confiscated phones from very young children containing pornography, and when confronted, the parent or care giver did not even realise that the child was able to access the internet with the phone.

Mondays are the worst. Shortly after 08:00 kids start falling asleep in classes Z and I am not talking about teenagers Z I am also referring to Foundation Phase kids.

Why? How is it possible that young, energetic creatures fall asleep so early in the day?

It is obvious. Sunday night is movies night on DStv. The gr. 4 learners were not even shy to confess that they sit up to watch two or three movies one after the other, and often get to bed beyond 23:00, only to realise that they are now unable to fall asleep, due to the affects that the movies have on them, or the nightmares caused by the content of the movies.

If you ask them, “Where are your parents or care givers when you watch the movies?” they reply: “They are in bed.”

At school we have confronted specific parents with these issues, because as you can imagine, it also has a negative spin-off on the discipline in the classroom which is a topic for another day.

Parents normally respond by stating very clearly that the child does not listen.

“I told him to go to bed, but he didn’t listen” or “I told him not to play with his phone or tablet after bedtime, but he doesn’t listen.”

The conclusion to be drawn is:

Our children do not know where they belong. They do not know the difference between a parent and a child, they do not understand a relationship of trust, and they do not care about their future because they do not feel to belong.

The harsh reality is that we bring them up. We make them what they are. And somewhere in the distant future, we will have to depend upon them. They will run the economy, the government, our medical facilities. In fact, they will control our lives. But then again, they already do.

Life Orientation is a subject at school, taken by learners from the first grade right up to gr. 12. The content of the subject suggests that we are using it to prepare our children to become worthwhile citizens when they leave school.

Unfortunately, it has had little impact on the overall population.

Why? Because it is the very basics that should be taught at home.

Unfortunately, these kids are placed in our schools, as the education sector is seen as the place where problems are fixed.

Teachers must become miracle workers. Principals are expected to be just as lenient as the parent (or absent parent). Schools must be more accommodating Z we need to ask the child what he or she thinks before we implement strategies, rules, etc.

No wonder they rebel against rules, against discipline and authority. They experience very little of it at home.

The outcome of this is obvious Z after achieving all their goals of freedom, where do they go? They run to alcohol, drugs, sex and, eventually, a life of crime. Children who are not disciplined, cannot be disciplined adults.

Yes, the school can fix the problem. The school can fix all the problems. But we need to have our authority back. We need the support of government, the parents, the community and we need the support of the very ones we are trying to “fix”.

And then again . . . maybe it is the adults who need to be fixed.
Eugene Maree, headmaster of New Horizon College Primary, Harrismith.

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