The 2019 school year is almost over, and as parents, teachers, support staff, and management, we should finish strong and push just a little harder to realize our goals for the year. Term 4 is also a time for awards and celebrations. This reminded me of my son's second prize giving last year, ten more to go.
It was the last day of a hectic and long school year; parents descended into the venue excited to see their little ones progress into the next grade.
As we remained seated, waiting for the event to start, I observed the interactions. One parent said to me 'I could never do this; it's too much work.'
Teachers were clearly tired with each family fighting to sneak in a word about their children's performance and the kids battling for their attention even on the last day. Teaching is one noble profession!
As the principal announced each grade, the learners walked in from the back through the aisle. Led by their teachers, the kids made their way to their designated seats in the front, as us parents clapped and cheered.
Also see: At this year's prize giving, we are all achievers
Are we turning into the paparazzi?
The stars of the day, the grade R's, made their entrance in oversized graduation gowns, it was eye-watering. The cheers and claps became louder and more intense. The whole thing then progressed into each grade receiving academic and non-academic awards and certificates alike.
However, this quickly degenerated into a photo and video taking challenge, with parents making their way to the front armed with their smartphones battling for pole position. The aisle soon disappeared, becoming a platform for the picture-taking parents blocking the rest of the seated families.
The parents that remained seated had to ask their counterparts to move out of the way, but that didn't help any. More and more parents made their way to the front joining the professional photographer that the school had hired.
Somehow, we turned into the paparazzi-like those we see on MTV, and our kids were the stars. As much as we were all excited and proud, it took away from us being fully present and enjoying the moment. Because of all these distractions, the parents who remained seated couldn't hear or see when their kids and other children were called to collect their certificates.
Maths, literacy and Zulu whiz kids, kids that demonstrated determination, grit were announced, but we couldn't see nor hear.
Preoccupied with taking the perfect photo
Perhaps schools should make use of 360 cameras and other photographic technology. Maybe this is an opportunity for entrepreneurs or camera/technology companies to tailor an affordable offering that could cater to this.
Allowing for these functions to be recorded (both video and pictures) and then families can download the images and videos they want to post after the event. Should parents be banned from taking pictures inside the prize-giving/graduation venue? Living in the smartphone and social media age means always feeling the need to capture, post and share. But it's exhausting and inconsiderate to others most of all to the kids.
Instead of being fully engaged, we are preoccupied with taking the perfect photo and selfie. Hopefully, such an intervention will result in us being fully present and engaged in these priceless moments.
Sean Mbusi is father to a seven-year-old boy and the founder of Kamva Education.
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