brown cane sugar with silver spoon

Schools aren’t about sugar, saccharine and salesmanship; schools are about reading, ‘riting and ‘rithmetic

Author: A M Scott

How many parents are caught in the whirlwind of ‘bang for your buck’ education, signing their children up to environments that (over)promise a complete ‘solution’ to their child’s spiritual, emotional, academic and physical development? The market is ripe and it doesn’t take much to whet a parent’s appetite for the bells and whistles a school might offer. The thing is, much of the promise is salesmanship and great marketing, hitting the natural parental soft spot sweetly like sugar or saccharine hits a morning cup of tea. In many ways, the education sector has lost the plot, because in truth, schools cannot assume to offer the holistic ‘solution’ described. An institution simply cannot do it, no more than a hospital can guarantee a person’s wellness on admission. Child rearing is a joint effort: schools and families in partnership.

Schools really can only be about a few things:

  • Community and belonging – a place where every child is valued and has a place in the sun;
  • Partnership with parents – where the collective power of one creates a village to raise a child;
  • Delivery of a solid, developmentally aligned curriculum wherein teaching and learning are one and the child progresses along the path of cognitive development, becomes equipped with skills training and gains scholastic mastery, particularly in literacy, Mathematics and creative arts.
  • Social engagement wherein the school is a microcosm of the world, a place to make friends, to work collaboratively, to play sport in teams, to develop tolerance for others and insight into different points of view.
  • Community engagement wherein children can experience the power of collectively engaging others in broader society to carry each other’s burdens and share each other’s insights and innovation for social change.

Recently, schools have been very much highlighted in South African media – all sad news stories. A chilling and utterly tragic tale of a young Grade Six learner stood out: at age thirteen, she took her life after being bullied over WhatsApp in relation to nude photographs of herself. Her mother, by all accounts, intervened quickly and called upon the school to assist, but tragically they were too late to save her. The media picked up on the story and quickly pursued the wrong slant –  it wanted to know what the schools should do to teach values, address cyber behaviour, bring discipline, inculcate respect within the children. If the school had done better, would this have happened to the young girl? Could blame be laid at the door of the school? No mention was made of calling for accountability from other adults in the lives of the children who bullied her, shocked and traumatised as they likely were. Someone had equipped the bully with a cellphone and internet access and then failed to monitor their child’s online activity. Nothing. Niks. Nada. That line of thought would present an inconvenient truth to the public, a bitter pill far removed from the sugar we prefer.

Schools can but help in building values and positive behaviour for the few short years that they are involved, by allying with parents around an agreed code of behaviour when at school. Schools cannot reach deeply to core values held, fostered and enforced in the home. Schools must do the five things described above. Parents need to do the rest. Parents must raise their children, instill values and standards, encourage work ethic, guide, support, discipline, lead, nurture and tend to the intricacies of the little person charged to them, for a lifetime. Parents are responsible for the emotional, physical and spiritual well being of their child. Schools are only their wingmen.

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