Politicians and educators are playing games with our children’s ...

Ideas

Politicians and educators are playing games with our children’s lives

EFF shenanigans at Brackenfell High are disconcerting, as is the education department’s response to cheating

Columnist

I want to connect the dots between seemingly isolated events on the educational landscape right now. Two beautiful grade 11 pupils at one of my favourite schools, La Rochelle Girls’ High School in Paarl, apparently committed suicide last week. Principal Amanda Lochner invited me regularly to this school to speak to future student leaders. The school has a healthy mix of class, character and culture, so much so that I always felt inspired by simply being there for my annual talk. I was therefore devastated to learn about the loss of these young souls.

We must never forget the enormous mental and emotional health stress brought on by the pandemic. Covid-19 is much more than a physical health crisis. It is one that has injected great fear, anxiety and even hopelessness among young and older children. In our book, Learning under Lockdown, the emotional toll of the disease on 400 children came through strongly and yet so much of public attention and resources are focused on bodily health. The tragedy at La Rochelle at the very least reminds us of other dimensions of child health that also need our urgent attention.

That is why the EFF’s decision to once again descend on Brackenfell High School this coming Friday is so disconcerting. Surely the anxiety of children about the pandemic and the final examinations would have been considered by the leadership of the red berets? Do these calculations about children’s emotional and educational needs matter in the logics of political actors beyond the racial make-up of a private, parent-arranged matric party?..

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