Yesterday my wife and I were in town shopping and came across a young man, whom I knew as a learner, and some acquaintance who wanted to speak to me. While my friend went on, the young man stood respectfully and patiently till we were done. He just wanted to tell me that he was a merchandiser at Shoprite and that his life was great.
I knew who he was but had forgotten his name. I saw in front of me a young man, confident and optimistic and then I realised why he wanted to tell me about his life.
In 2008 I saw this learner very frustrated because after three attempts he could still not pass Grade 9. I knew that, although he was struggling academically, he had a practical-technical ability that was more evolved than the average 15 year old. I encouraged him to enrol in AET classes and recommended that he should concentrate on a learnership or apprenticeship in a mechanical field.
I still don’t know whether he followed my advice, but that’s not the issue. I saw a young, responsible adult, ready and competent to take his place in society, which is, I believe, the essence of education.
And, by the way, he was no angel at school!!
Did he pass the NSC exams? Probably not! Yet, here was a young man who will, by all indications, make a success of his career and his family life.
This reminded me of our discussions of the role of the district curriculum adviser in schools. Education, like other public services, is people-centred and, being people-centred, it’s about relationships – whether educator and learner, curriculum adviser and educator, co-ordinators and advisers, heads of components and support staff.
And at the heart of this relationship is trust. Trust that you have my interest at heart - not that you will be there whenever I need you to help me. Having my best interest at heart, means that you recognise my potential and will create opportunities for me to soar!!
If we understand this, we would be able to distinguish between building a relationship and building a dependency. Dependency, in the sense that I will always have to consult you or have to wait on you to teach me how to do things.
Is this not perhaps the reason why we repeatedly have to go back and do the same things over and over again, because "they" don't do what "we" told them to do? Remember, if you treat me like a child, I will act like a child ...
If we build dependency instead of relationships, we perpetuate the ills and wrongs of the education system that we so desperately want to reform.
Prof Jonathan Jansen, renowned educationist and rector of the University of Free State, said the following: “… in our recent studies of Schools that Work, we found that disadvantaged schools that achieved consistently high results are marked by a strong sense of love. By love I do not mean some soppy sentimental, “hug-the-kids” culture – it is a deep sense of care and compassion for the children. Poor schools where pupils achieve high scores in their subjects are not narrowly focused on results – they are also acutely concerned with the humanity of the children.”
But, as someone reminded me, we have to look at the scoreboard (=results)!!
Then the nagging question always surface: “Are we looking at the half-time or full-time score?”