If all our children aren’t safe none of us will be

Ideas

If all our children aren’t safe none of us will be

Without a solid education in caring schools youngsters will end up on the streets wreaking havoc

Columnist

I have a soft spot for stations such as CCFM and Radio Islam because they bring a spiritual dimension to complex questions in education. Towards the end of an interview with the former last week, one final audience question came through to me as the guest: “Where do I enrol my child when the schools all say they are full?” My instincts told me this question required more context for a helpful answer and so I asked the host to give that mother my cellphone number so she could call me. The distraught woman had no airtime, but managed a WhatsApp message for me to call her back. That was when the drama started.

The mother moves around, sleeping wherever she can find a couch for the night. The father was felled by a motorbike accident. After some probing questions, I discover the boy has been in rehabilitation (dagga, “not him, his friends”) and his academic rap sheet was not great (“it’s actually much better now”). The mother sends me a picture of a beautiful, wholesome boy. Out of school.

Then the next phone call came. This boy’s father is in prison. The mother “flits in and out of his life” and, with each of her rare visits, leaves the child in emotional distress. This is the grandmother speaking, who raises the child while holding down more than one job to keep the wolf from the door. The grandmother needs him in a school closer to home because the one many kilometres away no longer offers after-school care, which she relied on while finishing work nearby. Can I please talk to the schools nearer to home to allow the boy to enrol?..

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