Yesterday I was reading a post over at one of my favorite local bloggers page Caffiene and Fairydust, and as the words flowed my heart sank, it sank because her post resonated with me on so many levels- the experiences and the emotions were just gut wrenching, it also sank because I know that in SA this issue has become so incredibly real for so many parents and children and quite frankly more people need to start sounding their voices and say enough is enough!
I am talking about our schooling system, in short it stinks- I have written about this before and both of my older children currently attend private Cottage schools because of our experiences, but my heart still breaks each and every time I hear of or read of another terrible experience and it probably always will if things don't change.
In short our government needs to catch a very drastic wake up call and realize that our schools are disgustingly over crowded and there are not enough schools to cater for the kids in need- there are thousands of children currently sitting without a school because there isn't space available in the ones that are currently built and I've got news for you there are no plans for solving that problem and thus the parents are left to either fight and force their children into a school where the class numbers are sitting in the late 30's ie almost 40 (up to 50 in Gauteng) children to one teacher or they are forced to enroll in a private school of which there are plenty but in reality the fees are just not affordable for most people or they end up homeschooling which the government is also trying to clamp down on because in their opinion homeschooling is the gateway devil and the parents are not providing their children with the government level standard of education which is shoddy to say the least but hey what do they care.
The CAPS curriculum is horrendously content heavy and children as young as 7 are having to do up to 3 hours of homework every day leaving them tired, anxious and frustrated- I cannot tell you how many parents I have known or know whose children have been put on anxiety meds because of this, anxiety meds at the age of 7!!!!!!
The teachers are underpaid and are forced to cope with numbers they cannot handle, the amount of admin required of them leaves them with far less patience and willful understanding than they should have and in most cases they are encouraged to focus on the children who are doing well and thus the children who are struggling get left behind or pushed out leading to further issues.
Our pass rate is a shocking 30 % for subjects and I do not believe that is because our children have dumbed down it is because the curriculum does not foster learning and growth rather it fosters parrot style intake where the child is just overridden by content and much of it they are not even able to grasp an understanding over because they are moved onto the next thing so incredibly quickly and they must just know it without actually understanding the fundamentals of what that content entails or means- the content is boring and jumps around meaninglessly- it is never improved on and the kids who do not conform or are not able to function within the box dictated to them are put on meds, belittled or just left behind.
I have 2 special needs children, I know the realities and the struggles of children who do not fit the mould and I also know that with a proper diagnosis and monitoring medications do have a place- however it has gotten to the point where 1 in 3 children is told they need to be medicated and where every teacher suddenly feels they are able to diagnose a child with a behavioral or learning disorder- the parents bewildered and trusting of the educators wanting to do what they are told is best for their child end up seeing the wrong people not getting the child properly assessed and bang another child who doesn't need it is on medication and I am sorry but that is just not acceptable.
Every child is different and I know of many children who have done or are doing incredibly 'well' in our schooling system but they are few and far between and I say well loosly because most of those children are on medication or struggle but are getting by because they have that one in a million teacher, I also know that it is so incredibly important to trust your instinct as a parent and to listen to your children- this is a lesson that I have learned more than once in a bad way and my deepest regret is choosing to trust someone else's advice and instincts over my own.
My oldest child attends a special needs school that is incredibly routine orientated and rigid and in many ways it does follow a more mainstream approach however with numbers of 6 per class and both a qualified teacher and assistant to each class as well the results are so far apart they cannot truly be compared, but I have found that whilst my middle son needs frequent what his school calls brain breaks throughout the day rather than the standard first and second break and whilst he needs to run around and have a good amount of flexibility and play in order to function at his best and complete his best work my eldest needs a firmer hand and a strict routine, he works better with a planned day and knowing exactly what is coming when and that is fine they are two completely different children just as my youngest is as well so why should the schooling system force every child to learn and grow as if they were all one person with one mind and one way of learning.
In our years of mainstream I was shocked at how a parent and child can be treated so poorly and how oblivious the department, teachers and principles can be to the very issues growing right underneath their own noses- a child of 10 who attempts suicide because they are bullied on a daily basis should not be met with disdain and irritation, their feelings and issues should not be pushed aside with the wake up call occurring after they have ended their lives.
At the end of the day something has to change- we as parents need to make our voices heard we need to make it known that our children deserve better and more they deserve more time more understanding,forward thinking and change- our teachers need more support, encouragement and they need to understand that a child who does not conform is not a problem and to leave diagnosing and medication to those who know what they are doing- stop causing an issue, over-medicating or just plain medicating children who do not have need of it means that they children who do need it are looked upon as having an excuse oh every child has adhd these days what nonsense they just need a good hiding and be on with them- their issues become every day ignorance their issues as well as their strengths are ignored and in the end the children with actual need are left without proper help and understanding and children who don't need this medications end up on very drastic medications that literally alter your brain when they do not need it as their brains are wired correctly to begin with.
If I sound angry, frustrated maybe even bitter then good because I am- I am angry that this is an issue and continues to be an issue and that nothing is being down, I encourage each and every parent please listen to your instincts, listen to your child and stand up for our children's right to the best education and a supportive environment make your voice heard.