I find myself in a unique position. I believe I have a different perspective. I am certain God has allowed me to occupy a space where my voice will find favour with various groups in our beautiful South Africa.
I am fortunate in that I have the opportunity to dream about the futures of my three amazing children. I can occupy my thought life with the hopes and dreams of my sons’ growing into men who stand for what is right and true. Who know when to sit and listen whilst at the same time, confident in their ability to know the times when they must stand with confidence and speak with courage. My beautiful girl brings me such joy, her strength and poise allow me to confidently declare that she will inspire some and she will convict others. She dresses herself with beauty and boldness, and yet she is not even 2.
So this is a bit out of left field. My focus is typically on Fathering, Adoption, family and the like. That’s who I am, that’s what I love and am passionate about and that’s what I feel called to write on. But in the past 3 weeks I have had a burning to add my 2 cents to the discussion on the challenges being faced by both the students and educational institutions in South Africa. Perhaps my voice will fall amongst the noise made by a thousand other opinions and perhaps it won’t stand as a voice of reason for either side, but it is a voice nonetheless and more importantly, it is the voice of someone looking through the eyes of a father, dreaming for his children, remembering his past and hoping my kids navigate their journeys better than those that came before them.
Before I exhale what has been chewing on my thoughts let me disclose a few things and add a few caveats.
Firstly, I am white (or rather peach to be more accurate) and I come from a privileged background. I won’t apologise for the sacrifices made for that privilege as they were made with the best of intentions and fuelled by a love for me by my parents. But, whilst I won’t apologise, I also cannot peddle the lie that I am not privileged. I suppose given my complexion and my previous statement, I am a benefactor of white (peach) privilege.
We pride ourselves in the knowledge that we live in a time like no other. A time where the amount of information created, consumed and freely available is beyond anything we’ve experienced in the past. We exist in a time where at the push of a button, we achieve access to nearly every answer man has ever discovered or needed. I have in the palm of my hand a venerable magic wand which, when fully charged, is able to give its possessor God like knowledge and understanding.
From the correct spelling of the world longest word (pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis for those of you who’d like to know) to the requirements to produce atomic energy, every single person has the ability to answer every single question ever asked, and in most cases correctly.
So why do I get the sense that in spite of limitless knowledge, common sense and general good choices seem to be on the decline?
There is a word as prevalent as it is nightmarish. It haunts the hallways of schools, hides in the dark places and lays in wait for its next victim. Many children face the light of day pregnant with fear that this day will repeat the horrors they felt yesterday and the days before that. So many children are facing the morning school run with a fear that could level a heavyweight boxer by the second round.
Bullies have the ability to rip away the innocence, the joy and the wonder that should form the basis of our children’s reality. From the subtle look over his shoulder to see if his captor will allow him to make the choice he is faced with to the blatant assault he endures at the hands of the “ones in power”.
South African media has launched a tirade of articles in recent weeks exposing the hell that many children find themselves never escaping. From social media rants, emotional barrages, group punishment to full-blown physical warfare.
I don’t profess to be an expert on the material, but this is what I have experienced:
in spite of all the lessons I am called to dish out to my children at a moments notice, as any parent worth their pinch of salt will agree, there comes that rare moment where all the education, experience, adult wisdom and understanding must take a moment and bow to the inexplicable honesty and brutal truth that comes from the mouthes of our children.
In my case, as much as life has been my biggest and most brutal teacher, those extra special lessons the ones that take your breath away because of their simplicity, have come through the teachings of two beautiful warriors, neither of whom at present, stands taller than my belt buckle.
Who would have thought some of life’s most important lessons could come from 2 little boys whose cumulative ages stands at a little over 7 years. And you thought God didn’t have a sense of humour when he created parenting.
My family has started a journey of asking questions around why we do things the way we do. Is doing something the way it has always been done mean we are doing it the best way? With a changing world, what things need to change? What things can we continue to do the same way we’ve always done?
The one area needing a little honesty is education. The question is not, should we send our kids to schools or homeschool them, although that will be a discussion for another day, the question today is, given the way things were, are and will be changing to, are we benefitting our children by educating them using methods that have been employed for decades? Should we be happy with doing something in a way that “works” or should we be looking rather towards doing something in a way that is “Best”. An interesting watch.