Updated: Jan 1
I've recently become aware of something that I didn't realise was as bad as it is....
Having been home-schooled for all my schooling years, I've never had to deal with the confinements, rules, and regulations of a regular school. Now, before I go on, let me just say that school and education are amazing and provide so many opportunities and skills and a lot of people have a fantastic experience at school. However, a lot people also don't, and even though I never had the experience of attending a regular school and wouldn't know all the ins and outs, these are few things I have observed and that have really been sitting on my mind lately - to the point that I just have to write this and let it out before I burst!
First of all, time.
Or the lack thereof. Of course, I've always known that students (high school in particular) have hectic schedules and freakishly long school days, but what I've come to realise is that it's more than that. As in their entire lives, every single flipping minute, is used up and consumed by exams, classes, teachers, tests, studying, results for tests/exams, extra classes, more exams and more subjects and it just never ends. Once the school day is finished they go home, only to now do homework and study for their next test/exam. It makes my literal blood boil.
Learners don't have time for anything else. They don't have time to breath, to go outside, to be creative, to get to know themselves. They don't have time for the planet or to even care about things happening in the environment. And we wonder why we have problems like alcohol, drugs, abuse, violence, depression, eating/mental disorders. 9% of all teen deaths in South Africa is due to suicide with strong connections to depression, and in 2012 suicide was the fourth leading cause of death for young people aged 15-24.
Secondly, the standard school system is so extremely old and out of date, it's actually shocking.
From the design of classrooms, with their hard little desks, to the subjects being taught, and the ways in which those subjects are being taught. Issues relevant to our time and the world in this present day are pushed aside by things like Maths and vast chemical formulas. Like, why should I know how many electrons are in an atom, when the world is busy burning down all around me, countless species are going extinct and our very own existence, as the human race, isn't certain?
Shouldn't things like plastic, pollution, deforestation, climate change and OUR impact on the planet be more important than calculating some unknown percentage or performing a chemical experiment? Knowing how to look after ourselves and the planet and learning to become a functional part of the greater whole, a web that encompasses every living being - plant, tree, animal, and human - and that supports, contributes and allows life to not just be sustained but to thrive. Shouldn't that be of the utmost importance? Learning to live, not just how life lives.
I was told that if students were to work and tend to the school vegetable garden it would be considered child labour.
Trapping kids inside cold, dark classrooms behind hard wooden desks for 7+- hours, five days a week for approximately 200 days out of the year, studying and doing homework, and still expecting them to learn anything, now THAT sounds like child labour to me.
Learning should be inspiring, exciting, and relevant.
But what has it become? A dread for not just the students but for teachers as well. In the U.S. in 2018 more teachers quit their jobs than in any previously recorded years. It's not just students that are enslaved to the education system but teachers as well. Teachers are often paid a low income but are overworked. Passion for teaching and educating is dissolved in those hard school walls and teachers endure disrespect from students. But how can you expect students to 'obey' teachers when they are being so forced and pushed to the conform with school rules?
It's one big vicious circle and it makes me feel so angry and helpless. Nowadays it feels as though everyone is looking toward the youth, towards my generation, for the solutions. For the change that they don't know how to make. The youth are fresh, they are inspired and innovative. They will have new ideas. Better ideas. Well, fuck that because when I look at the youth around me all I see is a bunch of robots, their brains deadened by a system that doesn't support learning but rather rips it apart. I see people my age drinking, smoking, they don't care about themselves and they don't care about the planet. I see kids throwing their chip packets and wrappers in the streets without a second thought, ordering take out and eating big McDonald's burgers, cheesy pizzas and KFC, without regard for the cost it has on the Earth or their own bodies for that matter.
What is this? What is this world we have created?
I know we need to focus on the positive and hold hope. I know that there are amazing things happening and people are waking up - look at the youth climate marches and strikes. A school in Cape Town has become the first school in the world to make Environmental Management a compulsory subject for students. There is so much good stuff happening in the world but sometimes it can feel like there is absolutely nothing happening. And it's okay to look at other countries and cities and see the things they're doing but we need to start looking here, at ourselves, at our communities, at our towns, at our schools. Sometimes I feel so powerless, I wish I could throw away this old school system and free all these kids from it's cage.
And then I sit here with the privilege of being home schooled. Of living on a small holding surrounded by nature. Of growing up with a loving family. The privilege of being able to think. Think about life, the planet, the problems, the solutions. The privilege to be writing this blog post right now.
I have so many questions for this world, but the one I want to ask right now is how can we change a system that has been ingrained into society for so many years? A system that has distorted and broken education.