Schools have to take on the role of villages to raise our children
|Prefects Nasiphina, Zophuna, Chante and Belita with Faldiela Conlin, the cook and Jenny Doralingo, the security.
On Thursday morning I met four beautiful young Grade 7 learners when I visited a school. The four learners - Nasiphina, Zophuna, Chante and Belita - had just completed their prefect duty of monitoring learner punctuality. Three of them passed me, greeting me politely with broad smiles and lilting voices. Their energy and enthusiasm so early in the morning were infectious. I struck up a conversation with the trio, enquiring about their health, school and the high schools they will be attending in 2015.
These youngsters showed no hesitation. Generally they agreed school was good, they were working hard, they were trying to improve their current grades that were already good and they were looking forward to high school the next year. They were full of life, highlighting only the empowering opportunities they see for themselves.
Our happy chat must have had some magnetism because before long, one of the support staff members was hovering within earshot. Even one of the feeding scheme cooks stood on the side, smiling and enjoying the exchange. When I told the girls I wanted to take a picture of them, another girl prefect came scooting down the walkway and made it just in time to be part of the picture. I walked to my car, smiling about the confidence and clarity of focus these young people have.
|Weapons brought to school
Fast forward to Friday morning when I visited one of the high schools I serve. On the principal's desk were two ominous knives. These killer knives were removed from learners on Thursday morning during a bag search held at the school. The knives were placed on an open life sciences textbook, the ultimate irony.
"I wanted you to see what we found on our children," said the principal. " I had a hard time calming my staff down. They are very angry and stressed. This is the manifestation of violence at our schools, the way our children want to deal with their hurt, their anger and their trauma. This is the reality. Yes, we reported the matter to the police, the culprits will be disciplined and counselled, but those coping strategies are containment strategies."
I sat and listened, asking questions, making suggestions while the principal and I spoke about the deep-seated trauma that plagues the communities. The road to healing is blurred.
And the safety net...
The African saying, "it takes a village to raise a child", is undisputed. Sadly, the village is becoming smaller and the only relatively stable, safe, nurturing space available is the school and its school community. School communities now, more than ever before, have become the elders.
At our principals' meeting our school heads expressed their feelings of guilt and inadequacy because they feel they are not doing enough to help their children. They don't have the tools to do so and the problems are too many. Yet, our school heads, the staff and the school space itself are our chief saving grace. This is a Herculean responsibility, but we have no choice. We cannot have the Friday narrative consuming the Thursday hopeful one!
Thus, to all our school heads, the broader leadership and the rest of the personnel: you have the capacity to help heal our children and we depend on you to be the pacesetters. No matter how impossible or daunting your task is, take comfort in the wisdom of our African forefathers who said: