Thursday, 31 January 2008

Education comes in second place

I think when I set out to come back to work I had it in mind that I would be able to continue the education of children. What I realise now is that education comes a distant second place to feeling secure and loved. Perhaps it's because I've never directly experienced any form of deprivation myself - except through my vicarious connection with such children I came into contact with during my career. I came from a secure and loving background - in common with most teachers from an aspirational and middle class background. I had always been expected to go to university and I obliged. We brought our own kids up with the same security and expectations.

But in what seems just like a matter of days this has been over-turned and I see from the children that I/we care for that education - in terms of learning subjects, skills etc - actually doesn't matter a damn if some of the basic building blocks aren't in place. When kids are going home by themselves to empty homes. When they have seen their parents die in front of their eyes; when they see violence on the streets; when bodies are left outside houses for collection; when a friend who they saw one day is dead the next. Children shouldn't see this - when I think back to watching news throughout my life from Africa, or Bangladesh, or any third world country I would reach for my purse and send in money - in fact we even sponsored a child in a village in Africa - how ironic is THAT! Third world has arrived - it's here in Edinburgh - but where are the relief agencies, the helicopters, the news teams? Just where the hell are they?!

So when someone said today that they were worried that children might not be able to read properly unless we kept them going with English I'm afraid I snapped (just a bit) and told them to take a look outside! Yet for all my outburst they were right - we have responsibility not to fail these children. For all that we are facing extremes we must remember that they are the future - not us - and that the skills, and normality which we took so much for granted - is also a basic right of every child.

Nevertheless, we must try to keep a perspective in this (hopefully) initial stage that the priority must be love and security. To that end we are trying to arrange foster care for those kids who have no one left at home. We only have one police officer left with us - the other became ill. Jennifer is a quite remarkable young woman - single handedly she has swept the houses in our immediate area and found four adults who she judged (completely by intuition) to be capable and safe to give some children a home. The rest have started to go home with members of their "family" - it's working already.

Our days are currently based around play; chatting; and more play. It just doesn't seem right to try to push learning at the moment - we have agreed to wait for the kids to decide.

Oh - the Deputy Head arrived - I'm sorry but I did defer to him (conditioning I suppose). He called everyone to a meeting in the Assembly Hall and set the chairs out in rows. He launched into a 30 minute sermon - most of which was about his experience and how he was going to save us - at the end he said that he would be setting up classes and a timetable because he believed that's what young people needed to provide security. Just as he started to give instructions to the kids they seemed to rise as one and left the Hall in their familes. Not a word was spoken - he screamed at them to sit down. He told me to tell them to sit down - I remained silent. He started swearing at me and the other adults telling us that we were a disgrace and that we had managed to brainwash them already. He stormed out telling us that he would take his expertise to a place where it would be valued - it was quite a performance.

The event was actually important for our community - for it proved one thing - we could work collectively and that we believed in each other. Libby and David told me later that they've never felt so powerful in all their lives. I almost wanted to thank him.


Anonymous said...

Not that I would have appreciated the behavior of the Deputy gentleman had I been there, from a objective observance he appears to have been operating out of fear and little else.

Who knows what has happened in his own personal life during these times? What happened to his social support system, if he even had one to begin with?

It appears he was trying to recreate the place he felt secure in prepandemic times.

What he found instead was that life had changed and was continuing to change. Things would never, at least for the foreseable future, return to the way they had been. This probably did nothing but reinforce his fears and issues of insecurity.

There will be a lot more of that going on before things are over with, in my opinion.

DC said...

Thanks for that insight. I hadn't tried to look at it from his point of view. It's good to you have you with us.