I got a text message today from my daughter who was at school with just the word, “Mum“, the first thoughts and emotions that ran through my mind and body were chilling as my mind thought the thoughts I don’t want to think about.
Is everything okay, is something wrong, these thoughts are the thoughts that every mum has gone through. I asked her without panicking, “Are you okay”, and to my relief her answer, was “yes mum but I just don’t know what to do……”
The don’t know what to do, could have been a hundreds of I don’t knows. I don’t know what to do about this boy that is just relentless, and won’t leave me alone, I don’t know what to do about this girl that acts like my friend but isn’t, I don’t know what to do with this teacher who treats me unfairly and unjust. It could have been a number of I don’t know what to do’s….
To my surprise the I don’t know what to do was, “Mum what should I study after Grade 12, should I be doing my original choice or should I take the other option just incase my marks are not what it needs to be, Mum I am stressed.”, I am a mum who constantly encourages her to do what she desires to do, but knowing my daughter she has had a plan from a little girl of what she wanted to do, and I could see her in that field … it has come to “I don’t know, Mum”
I write this blog with the message that the last year of school in our country is one of the most stressful and pressurizing years of a child’s life. I know my child so I know what she can handle and what she can’t, but I also know the in and outs of society and the education system and what they seem to portray. Many institutions portray a freedom of choice, a freedom of speech and thought, but many aspire to a standard that sometimes can not be kept, and this is with majority of students. I am not saying that keeping a higher standard is wrong as it can have some benefits, especially for those that can reach it but are just not; but how high is the standard and at what cost does it come with? Is it at the cost of the sanity of young teenagers that are about to explore, this big new world on their own and that only if you aspire to be at a certain standard or get a certain grade then you have arrived.
What happens to the majority that cannot (not will not) cannot keep to your pressurized system that robs them of been who they are and who they can become, maybe it may never be someome with a white cloak or a black one, maybe it is a colorful one. What then!
Many will say we do not do what you are saying, but I have heard, seen, witnessed and experienced, where even parents think their child has only made it, if you are studying in a certain field or have achieved some kind of status. This is something that almost every Indian family will experience, but also many teenagers face this each day. Who knows, I could have been such a parent.
I remember going to Australia and Europe and saw a young Indian girl and many old white women cleaning the toilets and it was normal, but not where I come from. I didn’t sense any humiliation coming from them, it seemed that they had a job to do and did it and did it well, nor did I see any dehumanizing coming from any of the locals towards them, they were treated with respect.
We are all born into different circumstances and privilege (yes which has played a big part in our education system and country, as only the elite could enter or pay to go to a certain school, which offers far more then a government school). It disadvantages those that could have done more, but are in poorer areas, buts that’s a whole other topic. However it doesn’t mean that if I have a higher IQ than you it makes me better then you, or if I go to this school than I am better then you. Where did we pick up this notion that people should be only deemed worthy if they have studied, sometimes even in a certain institute or if they have a higher IQ, or if they are in a certain profession? I am not saying people should not be recognized for their achievements, but what makes you think your achievements is better than someone else’s.
What if that person born with a different brain, as we all are, had achieved their ultimate level, their best, will we be saying oh they could have done better, if only they had done xyz. Many will be comparing and say look at my child they have achieved so many A’s or look at our school it is at the top. Good to note someone’s achievements, not that it should not be noted but in all the noting we overlook those that did their best that they could have done but was not noticed. When does the comparison stop?!
When we teach a child are we teaching them to realize their strengths and tap into that or are we trying to also force tap into areas that are clearly not their strengths all because society says they have too? What happens to the child who is flowing in the field of art or maybe some skill like woodwork but because it is not in a field of medicine or accounting etc; they have not achieved. That is one of the reasons our country is lacking in skilled people because it has been humiliating to do anything else but certain professions or earn a certain living. Yes we all want to have a better life and make things easier for our families but I hope it is not at the cost of losing them or them losing themselves in the process.
The pressure that a Grade 12 feels is already there, but there is so much added pressure from so many added sources that many can’t cope, it is blinding but also deafening. What should I do, which way do I go? So firstly they can’t see because everyone else is seeing for them, parents, teachers, society, which some may mean well but are we leading them on a road they were called too or is it our road? Deafening, because all the voices are silencing the one they need to hear – voices, telling them you should do this, because if you do this you are set for life, you should do that because if you do that you will be with the “creme de la creme – so which voice do they need to hear? The voices have already brought confusion in their minds because they can’t even hear themselves anymore.
I met a few young girls recently that are on anxiety medication because of the pressure they feel at home and at school to be something they are not, so that they would achieve those A’s, is it for their own wellbeing or is it for for the pride of a parent or school.
I asked the question again, but at what cost, at the cost of withdrawal symptoms from anxiety drugs, at the cost of your child’s future and happiness, at the cost of humiliation if they cannot achieve what you want them to achieve, at the cost of their own dreams and hopes.
Parent, educators we can only advise which way they should go, may it be the right advice not for our own status and name. May it be for their future, may we see what lies within each one of these beautiful children, their strengths and and then may we tap into a wealth of diversity, color, uniqueness and differences, as they have the potential to change, shape and color their and our worlds has they should be doing.