Fredrickson J opined: “We all have stories to tell. In times past, people seemed to understand that stories are the way we make sense of our lives, pass along knowledge and traditions that are helpful, and transform knowledge and traditions that no longer serve us.”
What kind of story will the Carletonville crèche toddler share about the education system’s failure to protect her and her rights?
Her story will be about trauma and callous acts by those in loco parentis.
That the Carletonville crèche teacher usurped the child’s constitutional rights and safety casts aspersions on the perceived sanctity of those learning centres and teachers adhering to the loco parentis stipulations.
One cannot rule out the possibility that beating up toddlers is a subculture at this learning centre and elsewhere in the country.
The perpetrators, of course, go unpunished because of leadership ineptitude and sheer collusion by those in proximity who witness these callous beatings of kids.
The absurdity of the callous beating at the crèche, as well as other egregious acts happening at our schools, finds expression in US author Dan Millman’s notion of being alert to what is happening around us.
He advises us to adopt an “expansive state of awareness” in order to “turn stumbling blocks into stepping stones” to change circumstances.
That kids get beaten by teachers reflects poorly on our education leadership and school governance structures in terms of their roles and responsibilities, as set out in the SA Schools Act.
Callous actions denigrate the integrity of the education system and its obligation to make school environments safe for all.
They confirm that those entrusted with leading and managing schools have lapses of “alertness”, of knowing what takes place at the school.
It is about effective leadership and management, at school and systemic levels.
A bigger question to Mzansi’s education officials has to do with the differentiation of learning centres and sites – public, community and independent spaces – and dual oversight between state departments.
Do differentiated learning centres and sites serve the educational requirements of Mzansi’s children?
Do they nurture their young minds and enable them to progress to higher grades with ease, or are they merely tools and mechanisms to entrench inequality and privilege?
The other question arising from the Carletonville incident is about teacher recruitment procedures.
Are these effective, given the “cash for jobs” report, which highlighted the soliciting of bribes in return for teaching posts?
Read: Jobs-for-pals scandal rocks council for educators
The quality of teachers in public, community and independent schools at the foundation phase, and the education system itself, vary in terms of their certifications, curricula, teaching and assessment strategies, classroom management, etc.
It is not only the qualification variance that complicates schooling; highly differentiated learning environments add to the toxic mix.
The extent to which the department of basic education addresses these aspects must be prioritised.
Staffing schools with teachers steeped in curriculum epistemology and effective teaching and assessment strategies will result in a quality education.
US education theorist William Ayers says qualified teachers “teach to make a difference, to improve things, to participate in profoundly human and social experience, to change the world, sometimes one precious life after another”.
Efficient and effective support structures make teaching easy and manageable. Entrusting children to experienced and qualified teachers fully cognisant of a young child’s needs will accelerate their development.
Isn’t it ironic that when parents look for a child minder, they do not choose just anybody, but go through laborious vetting processes to find someone with acceptable attributes.
Yet when it comes to schooling, their involvement is lacklustre.
They do not scrutinise the teachers; all they do is sign homework books and progress reports.
Some parents have never had a face-to-face meeting with the teacher to find out about their child’s progress, considering this a burden.
Hence, the question arises: Are we complicit in acts that undermine the quality and safety of our children?
The importance of being alert and accountable finds expression in The Economist: “Accountability,” it says, “requires standards, transparent ways of measuring whether schools are meeting those standards, and the ability to reward schools that succeed and sanction those that fail.”
We have failed to live by this, as reflected in the crèche beatings and other misdeeds committed at our schools.
It is time we prioritised our children and their learning environments, so they can progress in a happy, healthy way.
Monyooe is a concerned citizen