The schools are in recess. Kasiekulture thinks this is the right time to question the kind of indoctrination that learners are subjected to during that dreadful seven and four, and whether it is making them better human beings or the same bunch that is today running around with certificates not worth the paper they are written on.
My niece is doing Grade Seven. She already knows a lot about Jesus Christ and Bethlehem and the basic religions of the world, with Islam being modeled as an alternative to Christianity and vice versa. In any society it would be perceived to be an indication of an education system that is geared for the future. A model system that is going to produce mentally balanced and objective children who will be tolerant of each other's religious and cultural diversity. However, there are crucial points where this system and approach are failing dismally.
First, my niece is asthmatic and often has to use an inhaler when her breath comes in spurts, her chest wheezes and she loses power. The problem is, she can't use the instrument, and her friends can't as well. As a result she doesn't even carry it around. Not only her, the truth is that, nobody in three generations of my family can use it, but me. Which raises one question about what the education planners overlooked when they put together the current curriculum. Either it was not informed by analysing the need or it was ill informed by South Africa's obsession with political correctness.
In the real world the practical question will be, how will the knowledge that Prophet Muhammad lived between 570 and 632 be of importance to an asthmatic child who still can not use her asthma inhaler? What will it benefit that child to be politically correct if nobody sees her health as being more important than secular indoctrination one will get exposed to as they grow up anyway? There is no substitute for the child who fell in an open sewerage or died of asthma because information relating to the hazards posed by an open sewerage and lack of oxygen was kept exclusive from them.
The current education system is begging for an interrogation. Religious tolerance should be left as a domain of parents and religious leaders since after so many years of secular education, billions of rands later the system is failing to instil something as forthright as political tolerance as evidenced by what usually happens with farmers and their workers and the current political realities.
A primary school educator who can not be named expressed her frustrations with the system. She indicated that it is useless to expect teachers to provide education without proper material and a commitment from education stakeholders to make it work. Shortage of prescribed material is a hindrance and the Christian morning devotion makes a mockery of the whole exercise when Islam and other religions are only in theory while the Christian doctrine is practiced every morning. She gave her endorsement to the notion that such time would be better utilised teaching the children life skills like First Aids and swimming.
A huge percentage of children wouldn't know what to do if one of them had an epileptic fit or started haemmorrhaging through the nose during their physical activity class. They wouldn't know what to do if he broke his leg in a soccer match or started choking while having lunch. Funny enough, even teachers would not know what to do. Which makes First Aid education and swimming lessons more feasible than the story of uNomkhubulwane and Monomotapa.
What will be the point of a child knowing that the first post-Jesus Christ Christian church was anointed with the Holy Spirit on the Pentecost of 33 CE while that child can not rescue a friend who suddenly suffocates while trying to swim, not across the Red Sea but a metre deep pond?
It never ceases to amaze that in almost all white schools there are road signs cadets who help learners and drivers observe zebra crossings every morning and afternoon while the same is never seen in black schools where there are even more children walking to school than driven in parents' cars. Which also raises a question of how difficult would it be for the Department of Education to equip the Grade One to Five with extensive knowledge of road signs than to fill their heads with religious doctrine, which churches, mosques and parents are already doing?
How bad would it really be if emphasis was also placed on sexuality education, not AIDS workshops? Would it hurt for an 11-year-old boy to know about a sanitary pad and a tampon even though he is not going to use it in his life? It would surely eliminate those embarrassing questions usually raised while watching television with children. Would it be a lethal dose of venom to teach both sexes about menstruation, wet dreams and the reason why boys get circumcised? The current approach of ordering every child to draw their own anatomies and genitals is ineffective because it is treated as an activity to relieve a burden off the shoulders of educators. It would serve a broader purpose to know how to apply a tampon than to sing The Lord's Prayer at morning devotion, which is what the current system is actually emphasizing.
Finally, the only thing that will come out of the current systematic mental conditioning is confusion on the part of the learner. Different doctrines teach different responses to same situations. Some counsel turning the other cheek while some advocate retaliation, which itself will destroy the individual discretion of the child. Rather that time will be better utilised spreading the Bill of Rights for every child to interrogate. It will help since once they get to high school they will be in a clear position relating to whether teachers can pursue sexual relationships with them or blackmail them into sleeping with them. Maybe even making it a compulsory requirement to leave Grade Twelve with a Learner Driver's License and a Paramedic Certificate won't be such a bad idea.
If there is one thing the current system will produce, to borrow the words of another primary school educator, "is a stupid parrot with lots of self esteem"