The (in)dignity of Learning

School is hard. Just when you’ve mastered your two times table, they ask you for 7 x 3; as soon as you’re proficient in using adjectives, you are expected to use similes, alliteration, and onomatopoeia; and there’s always another book level to strive for, another word to learn, and another science experiment to do.

School is about learning – learning maths, learning science, learning life. Teachers are employed, homework is devised, and resources are used; all with the purpose of aiding learning. Parents, carers, teachers, and governments are (theoretically) always aiming to improve the educational experience for children so that they can get the most out of school.

So what happens when the difficulty of academia is coupled with an unsupportive learning environment? I believe that you have failed. Failed learning, failed education, and failed tomorrow.

Last week, the following statistics about the state of the South African public school system were reported (click here for the full article):

According to the latest national education infrastructure management study released by the department of basic education in 2011, there are 24 793 ordinary public schools. It showed that:

•    3 544 schools have no electricity supply and 804 an unreliable electricity supply;

•    2 402 schools have no water supply and 2 611 an unreliable one;

•    913 schools do not have any ablution facilities, and 11 450 still use pit-latrine toilets;

•    2 703 schools have no fencing;

•    79% are without any library and only 7% have stocked libraries;

•    85% have no laboratory and only 5% have stocked laboratories;

•    77% are without any computer centres and only 10% have stocked computer centres; and

•    17% of schools lack any sporting facilities.

There should be no realm of reality where this is acceptable; it is absurd. And yet, here it is – printed in black and white. The biggest problem my class faced last week was that not all 30 learners fitted into the computer centre at the same time; whilst 4000 schools in South Africa have limited or no electricity.

This week, at school, we have been sorting out the Key Stage 2 storage cupboard in order to make space for a History, Geography and Science resources room. Each class has been given almost 100 spare books (gross mis-ordering) and there is a pile of stationery and miscellaneous resources now looking for a home. On the other side of the world there are schools without libraries and yet, here we are putting together subject-specific resource cupboards to better aid learning (and the corresponding teaching).

In what realm of reality do we exist that this is acceptable. Why do we continue not only to allow these massive and hugely detrimental inequalities to exist, but we we do hardly anything to improve on them, instead focusing on the betterment of one set of learners – one school, one suburb, one country.

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One thought on “The (in)dignity of Learning

  1. really makes one appreciate the schools we were able to attend and realize just how large the gap is between privileged and underprivileged schools!

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