SUPPORTING KIDS AT SCHOOL GOES BEYOND THE KODAK MOMENTS
#FIRSTDAYATSCHOOL images of children either starting elementary school or returning to school for their next grade flooded social media on Wednesday as parents were “symbolically” expressing their “interest” in their children’s education.
It is an exciting event, but it has its own problematic features.
To some parents, it comes with a fantasy that this is the most important day their child needs them as they meander the long, challenging, and tiring road of formal schooling on #FirstDayAtSchool.
After the big day, children are left to languish in limbo as parents focus on hundreds of likes and reactions from Facebook and Instagram. They continue with their usual self-pampering online images while their children are left to their own devices as far as education is concerned.
In all this rush on social media, let us pause to ask ourselves as parents: “Am I part of my child’s education throughout the year or do I only participate on the first day of school?”
My greatest fear is that with the digital revolution and abundance of social media platforms, many of us have moved to realms of fantasy without realising that we are moving away from reality.
It would be disingenuous of us to think we can trust our schools, particularly public ones, with the education of our children.
The country is found wanting in quality education.
If the expression of “interest” in our children’s schooling is demonstrated only on the first day of school every year through capturing and sharing of images on social media, then we are active militants in the intellectual massacre of our vulnerable children.
We cannot keep shifting the responsibility of parenting, which includes schooling, to teachers as they only get to be with the children for a limited period. Our interest has to extend beyond “Kodak moments”.
Some parents have been coming to the party, and that must be applauded. However, we cannot pretend all children receive this much-needed support from their parents. Providing children with schooling needs extends beyond buying school uniform, paying for transport, and packing a lunch for them.
Parents are to encourage children to read every day.
Children have to be exposed to experiences that will trigger their interest in exploring the world.
They are to be given a voice at home and be allowed to question everything, so they become critical thinkers. Parents are to go through their school notes with them and test them at home before they go for an exam.
Regular communication with their teachers is important.
It would be arrogant of me, though, not to appreciate the structural challenges present-day parents face to get their children a decent education. The distance between parents and their children mainly stems from the unjust and deep-rooted inequality in this pseudo-democracy. Some parents went through inferior education and are of little help to their children’s schooling. Others leave home at the crack of dawn and return in the evening, just so their child gets to school well-fed and clothed.
Parents, we cannot trust our government with our children, we have to get our hands dirty as far as the education of our children is concerned.
The need to attend to our children’s schooling is critical. In the interest of our children’s success, we have to find a way to support them from the first day of the academic year right through to the end.
Let’s capture those images to remind us every day during term that we have an obligation to hold our children’s hands through their schooling.
Sphelele Ngubane is a Chevening scholar. He teaches journalism at Durban University of Technology and writes in his personal capacity.