School of hard-knocks starts at dawn

Cape Argus - - OPINION -

MANY pupils as young as 5 and 6 have to daily over­come long travel dis­tances to and from school, of­ten in ex­tremely dan­ger­ous con­di­tions. This, all to ac­cess a sem­blance of a ba­sic ed­u­ca­tion.

Small chil­dren in ru­ral ar­eas have no al­ter­na­tive but to walk many kilo­me­tres to and from school on a daily ba­sis while their coun­ter­parts in the cities are trans­ported in over­loaded, un­road­wor­thy taxis driven by un­li­censed driv­ers, or use un­re­li­able train or pub­lic bus ser­vices.

Both groups en­joy the “jour­ney” and ac­cept it as be­ing the norm. They are pro­pelled into a sit­u­a­tion of self-su­per­vi­sion way be­fore they are equipped to han­dle such adult re­spon­si­bil­i­ties.

Their morn­ing, for many of them, starts at 4am or 5am, when they wake to fetch wa­ter, let out their fam­ily’s cows, and help their younger sib­lings get ready. They then set off on their walk or wait for the taxi to hoot or rush off to take pub­lic ser­vice trans­port.

Many ar­rive at school two or more hours later, worn-out, ex­hausted and sweaty. Need­less to say, they are ex­pected to pay at­ten­tion and re­main fo­cused for the six-hour school day know­ing they will have to re­peat the jour­ney at the end of the day.

That is one ex­tremely dif­fi­cult form of built-in abuse which par­ents, ed­u­ca­tors, law en­forcers and politi­cians for­get to ac­knowl­edge, or do we choose look the other way?

Ed­u­ca­tion, which so many term as a means of set­ting free the op­pressed, has the op­po­site ef­fect.

The play­ing fields have been lev­elled by the gov­ern­ment ini­tia­tives ren­der­ing the word apartheid in the “past tense”.

How equal is it when a 5-6-year-old, usu­ally from a sin­gle par­ent home, is up be­fore fully grown, laugh­ing, ly­ing, ar­ro­gant, power and money-hun­gry politi­cians to face the daily chal­lenges of fac­ing death, dodg­ing bul­lets and es­cap­ing abuse and even death from fam­ily or friends or even an ed­u­ca­tor?

KEN­NETH M ALEXAN­DER Athlone

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