Perhaps it’s a bit premature to mirror in on the year it has been, allow me nonetheless. I promise it’s not going to be bumpy, poignant of a haul just one truth I had to come to terms with this year. As a parent whenever you have to embark or disembark on something your decision is almost based solely around your child (ren). If for instance you are planning on a change of residency, you consider how child friendly the new environment will be, are there any play areas around, what are the crime stats, access to healthcare facilities, highway accessibility (the easier the better) and so on and so forth, sounds daunting? Trust me it’s not as overwhelming as trying to find what is considered a’ good school ‘ for your child (ren).
When I moved into this area I did what a good mother would, tick all the relevant boxes and I was certain I had found a ‘good school’ for my son, little did I know that was going to last for about fifteen months. I could think of a hundred plus adjectives to describe how a good school looks like or should be but in my mind it’s really simple.
A good school is a ‘Good place to learn and grow’. Let’s face it though, in a South Africa context it’s a lot more than that. While it differs from parent to parent for the few parents that I interact with a good school has a certain look.
- State of the art facilities – classrooms, play grounds, some even push it to the school colours as in uniform
- Popularity there of – who went to this school, where are they now, what are they doing with their lives.
- Curriculum — What curriculum does the school follow? A levels, Cambridge, Curro, CAPS etc
- Public ,Private, Partial –Private wins all the time
- Affordability _the more expensive the better , if school fees haven’t bankrupted you yet , then honey you need to keep looking , because the more you pay the better your child will turn out to be
- Quality of staff — The more European(no pun intended) the better
- Own self esteem boost — People should respect me more because my child(ren) attend the most expensive schools available.
The roll is endless, somewhat shallow but that’s a story for another day.
So if I did my homework thoroughly in terms of finding this school for my son why did I find myself doubting my decision fifteen months later? A number of things really. See my child had come from a private Christian school so intimate that they were only eight in classes, so in my search I feared him coping in a bigger school. Secondly the school had to be within close proximity to where we live which this particular school fitted that bill perfectly. Though the school hadn’t been around for more than eight years atleast their website promised a lot. When I went for a tour before enrolment I was satisfied in that all the questions I asked there were perfect answers provided .Like how there were no sporting facilities, the ground was there and I was told it will be developed within months thereby allowing for a field that would triple up on hockey, cricket and soccer, fair enough I thought.
I liked how innovative the school promised to be with almost everything done electronically, I thought wow our kids will be coding in no time. On top of that I didn’t have to prepare daily carry on lunch as the school was providing three cooked meals daily, bliss right? Yeah totally, more so if your child is not a fastidious eater that is petrified of food.
Hardly three months in, it started was I doing grade two not my son but me? The amount of home work became almost unbearable to a point where I went to the school to speak to the teacher about the amount of work load. In my mind I wondered how much they were doing in class if home work was that much. Every day we use up to two hours of wifi doing Maths, science and language(s) homework. There was never a time where we went to bed before nine. You do not want to imagine how the poor child would be like in the morning. My son a story teller who thrills at telling stories started hating reading, not only were we fighting but I was very monstrous in my approach in helping him understand. Well after the talk with teacher work load decreased a bit.
I reached out to other parents it turned out they were also experiencing the same. My worry was that I was disabling my son, because sometime I would be so tired an end up giving him all the answers( I know).I would check the tests every Mondays and he was doing well, but the mostly puzzling part was how he could not put everything into context outside of how teacher told him in class. This was a problem for me – application.
Summer quickly came to an end and that meant no swimming just physical training. I made an enquiry with the principal about the other promised sport codes – No response. My child is super active and if that energy is not properly channelled he find alternative ways to put it to use which doesn’t always turn out good, though with good intentions on his part.
There was the food issue which I didn’t mind because I know how he doesn’t like food, my concern was my money that i was paying for food and he was not eating also not allowed to carry his own meals.
There was the Cambridge issue. I understood Cambridge academy to have its origin from England, so when the English language was taught using the American style of teaching I had issues, I raised them, and again I was the odd parent out who demanded a lot from the school. But wasn’t I paying? Shouldn’t I raise my concerns?
Fast forward life happened for me things didn’t go as well as I thought they would, my Finances were affected. I had a talk with the school Accounted who noted things down with a week of a missed payment from my son o received a letter from the school threatening to hand my account over for non payment. This is the very school that was incorrectly billing me for aftercare which my son was not in, the same school that never reconciled payments which came from the father’s side. Again I was that parent.
I could list every little incident that finally gave way for my decision to change schools but let me not.
“When things are forced in with little adjustment elsewhere the authenticity of everything dies” that’s exactly what happened.
I did not just arrive at the decision to change schools, I questioned myself a lot, checked and rechecked my own bigotry, but mh mh it was becoming unbearable. I finally made the moving second term this year. While the current school is not the best but two terms down i can safely say that my child has grown a lot.
- I don’t have to perforate him to demonstrate understanding or application of what he has learned daily he does that voluntarily.
- He doesn’t read and write because he has to; he does it because he chooses to out of his own free will.
The first day he came home with a hard cover of his very first book to read at home I would never forget how excited he was, how his eyes just lit up, it was definitely a good stretch from a ebook something about it gave him an extra spring in his step.
Technology is good over the years it has changed how we do things, maybe just maybe the schools ought to say:
‘While we can choose to do everything we can, lets rather choose what is necessary so we can be exceptionally well at what we do’
Not only did it save me few rand which I did not have in the first place, but the change has allowed me once again to a mother, not a teacher or a student but a mother whose role is to support guide, because after all in my mind a ‘Good school is one that values the depth of less than the shallowness of more, while engaging all children developing academic mindsets scaffolded by strong support from the school, community and home…