As the matrics of 2020 face their ultimate test, our special thoughts are with them. The additional pressure they have had to endure this year as a result of the lockdown has been extreme, but we have every confidence that their teachers and families have provided the support they need to meet the challenge.
Of course, the situation has been difficult for all learners, from pre-school upwards, and the effect this disruptive year will have on them in the longer term is yet to emerge. According to Minister of Basic Education, Angie Motshekga, 10% of children who were enrolled before lockdown have not returned to school.
But there is another challenging aspect of education, especially in urban communities, which has recently been highlighted by the events at Brackenfell High School in Cape Town. It is an issue with wide-ranging implications for society in South Africa way beyond 2020, a stark reminder of the level of anger boiling under the surface, just waiting to be triggered. Significantly, it had absolutely nothing to do with the welfare of the already-stressed matrics at the school.
The question it raises, which we should all be grappling with, is what educational transformation really means. Certainly, most former Model C schools are now fully inclusive in terms of learner diversity, but what about the teaching staff and even more pertinently, what about the parents?
While the learners may form cross-cultural friendships at school, to what extent can these be extended into their after-school lives? Are they invited to parties at one another’s homes, do they have sleep-overs, do their families socialise with one another, especially when class differences are added to the mix?
As educationist Dr Mary Metcalf points out, by focusing on the opportunities this demographic diversity offers us, we can gain new insights into one another’s cultures and values and possibly form new friendships. This is when racial differences cease to matter, the happiness of the children is paramount and we begin to see each other simply as fellow human beings, and not the enemy.
We believe that in the Overstrand we are already starting to move in this direction. Let’s make it happen… for all our sakes.