The Unknown War in South African Schools.

The Unknown War in South African Schools.

Imagine living in a world where your kids cannot safely go to school. It is far from most people’s minds yet it is a reality for so many throughout the world. We in most parts of Australia, the United States and the United Kingdom, don’t have to worry about that but for some in South Africa, it is a sad reality.Let me first give some background on where this story started from:

A few months back, an article came across my news feed called ‘Chase’s Teacher’. It was part of a blog by a woman named Glennon Doyle Melton in her blog titled ‘Momastery’. Here’s the problem though, I clicked on it, read it and shared it and afterwards it looked like I had written it. What I mean is, I paid no heed when sharing it; it wasn’t credited to anyone when it came on my news feed, anyway when I shared it and was notified someone else had shared it, it had my name written at the top of it. I mentioned it to my husband at the time but honestly gave it no further thought, thinking it wouldn’t go far and people would know it wasn’t my writing because on the most obvious level, I don’t have a son called Chase, I also didn’t expect it to go viral in South Africa.

 

 Last week, I started getting a number of friend requests from people in South Africa; I couldn’t for the life of me, work out why. I looked at these people as they friend requested me and realized they were all honest-to-goodness real people, not some sort of scam. I googled my name but nothing came up, I upped my privacy buttons on Facebook friend requests and left it at that, until I received a private message from a lady begging me for help. Her message read:

 

“Morning from cape town. I just came across your post about “chase’s teacher” and I would like to share it please. This is my son, (the name and photo of her son, I have kept private). He is six and gets bullied for being kind. After many fruitless trips to the school and him receiving death threats, I would love to start an online platform where we share experiences and support and your post is one of the few with practical solutions. Please consider my request. Kind regards”

 

I am a mother, this message broke my heart. I also realized that this must in some way be linked to the friend requests I had been getting from South Africa. I responded to her message by saying I think she has me confused with someone else and that I would love to help her but I don’t know what article she’s talking about. The dialogue went back and forth until I finally realized it was this woman named Glennon whose article she was referring to. What a terrible person I was taking credit for her hard work, even if quite by accident. I have since shared her name with my new South African friend and I hope she will be in touch with her, but I too have vowed to assist in any way I can, starting with this blog.

 

Bullying. It is something that has come to light over the last few years and something that is quite possibly shoved in our faces for anything and everything, particularly in the USA. It is an excuse for everything, unfortunately though, when it is really happening, it is not taken as seriously as it should be. I think the media in the States has overused the word bullying. It is a serious word. And this situation is so serious, it can be deadly.

I am talking about a woman who purchased a house in a nice area because of the school district, a woman who knows that in most schools in South Africa, there are major problems, but a mother who wanted to give her children the best she possibly could so she stretched everything to be able to move there yet found the problems were no better even in the ‘wealthier’ school districts. This blog is about this huge problem in South African schools that no one is doing enough about. About a girl who was 6 years old and told to cover up because there were 8 known sexual predators in mental interventions in her class. About children having their earrings ripped out of their ears; children being bitten, shaken and pushed. About an eight year old boy who was thrown off a balcony in November of last year by a fellow eight year old pupil. The boy, Faidh Jacobs, suffered a cracked skull with internal bleeding, yet I can find no further articles on the punishment of the pupil who did this to him! How can that be? About a father who was banned from entering his daughter’s school by the High Court in Pretoria without prior arrangement because he protested outside of the school after she had been the subject of victimization and bullying to such great extremes that she no longer wanted to go to school. The father said the school wasn’t serious about investigating and stopping the bullying happening to many students and his only action was to protest with banners and pamphlets outside of the school. The school of course denies this, but to me, the fact that a father had to resort to such extreme measures to be taken seriously, speaks volumes about the bigger issues going on.

 

The South African Schools Act of 1996 states that all schools must adopt a Code of Conduct to which all learners must comply. Included in this Code of Conduct should be the school’s policy on bullying yet it seems that so many parents have complained to teachers and to school principals with no further action being done because they are either too scared themselves or don’t want to believe there is a real problem. So much is being pushed under the rug in South Africa and until someone starts standing up for these kids, nothing is going to change.

There is some hope however; a young girl named Kelly Gibson was bullied after she wouldn’t take part in an initiation ritual which included running across a beach naked. She went from being a popular, sporty student, to a girl who was consistently victimised. Like my South African friend also mentioned as being a regular occurrence, her belongings were stolen, they even set up a Facebook group against her. Kelly’s Mum eventually moved her to a different school as the abuse got so bad, but Kelly is now speaking up against bullying and has started her own website at:

http://www.respectme.co.za

To my South African friend I say this; the article Ms Melton wrote is incredible. Chase’s teacher is incredible. What a wonderful way to ensure no one is being mistreated, to engage every student, and to ensure bullying is not happening in your classroom. This is a far more proactive way to stop bullying in the classroom, it needs to start from an early age and it needs to be practical. What a great way to monitor the health and well-being of your students and what another great burden to throw on our poorly-paid teachers. This is where it needs to be a societal effort. This mother in Cape Town is suffering because her little boy is suffering and if she doesn’t do something soon, the kindness he is being bullied for, will leave; we can all only tolerate so much. I don’t have the answers, all I can do is make some suggestions, judging by the number of people who tried to friend request me and the number of published stories in South African newspapers, you are not alone with your son’s plight. And you are doing the right thing by wanting to band together with other Mums, bringing a complete halt to this abhorrent behavior.

 

If you have any ideas or real life examples that have worked in similar situations, please share them here so we can ensure bullying is not just an overused word but is realized as a real-life problem that needs to be eradicated! 

 

For the original article titled ‘Chase’s Teacher’, please visit: http://momastery.com/blog/2014/01/30/share-schools/

 

For help in South Africa

Call Childline 0800 055 555 or visit

http://www.childlinesa.org.za

Also, there is a great article on the subject of bullying in South Africa at http://www.childmag.co.za/content/bullying which has a link to download anti-bullying guidelines.

One more thing, Ms Glennon Doyle Melton, please accept my sincerest apologies- I had no intent to claim your incredible article as my own.

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The Big Talk

The Big Talk

So today we sat our kids down and had the ‘talk’. No, not what you’re thinking, get your mind off that for just a moment 🙂 the talk about money. About saving. About giving. I never got pocket money when I was growing up and I’m pretty tight with giving pocket money as I don’t believe in something for nothing and I don’t believe kids should just get money for the sake of it. My kids, well two of them anyway, have to do some very basic chores every week. They include feeding the dog and cat daily, folding their own clothes after the washing is done, they have to pick up the dog poo, keep their rooms clean and the eldest one has to take our dog walking on the weekends. All these jobs amount to $1.00 each although we’ve just added the dog walking on the weekends to the eldest one (11) so we will increase hers to $1.50 starting next week. Like I said, we are not overly generous, nor do we demand too much.
We also save money for each of our children, it started with $1.00/day from the moment I found out I was pregnant (we made sure all of them started from the same moment in their lives). Then it went to $1.50/day at 5 years then $2.00/day at 8 years, $2.50/day at 10 and will increase once again to $3.00/day at 12 years. From then on, we haven’t worked it out, but we’re trying to ensure we can give our kids a start in life. As soon as their savings hit $3000.00 we start putting it into a mutual fund account (whilst continuing to deposit money into it) where we have stipulated the projected date we need the money and leave the rest to the professionals who manage these sort of accounts taking into account that date, as far as risk is concerned -for more info on these sorts of accounts you can go to websites such as:
http://www.franklintempletonindia.com/en_IN/investor/investor-education/fund-basics/how-mutual-funds-work

 or 

https://www.sec.gov/investor/pubs/inwsmf.htm.

Anyway, back to the ‘talk’. I read this great article the other day (unfortunately I have just spent the last hour searching for said article on Facebook and cannot find it; lesson learnt: if you want to refer to something interesting you read as a blogger, take a note of it immediately so you can share it) where the principles really hit me. He or she (again I would know had I taken note) talk about involving your children in your money-making decisions and we’ve never done that before but as I read the article, it made complete sense. Why wouldn’t you involve them if you want them to be responsible and make good choices when it comes to money? If that is the end goal to raising a well-adapted, smart, kind, responsible child, then one doesn’t even need to question the motivation behind it. 
So we sat the kids down this morning as we gave them their pocket money and asked them to get all the money they have earned (& haven’t yet spent of course). We talked about how everything requires money and they need to start saving, perhaps for a car (particularly the older one). We also talked about gifts and giving/donating. My husband has this great saying he always says to our kids: “Do you want to be the person on the street begging for money, or do you want to be the person on the street giving the money?” Their answer is always the same, they want to be able to give the money. Therefore, they need to make smart money choices. Today has in fact been all about money. We spent half of our car trip on the way to Osan (from Camp Humphreys, South Korea- about 1/2hour as long as there’s no traffic) discussing money decisions including but not limited to investing, car payments, regular household expenses, college, first jobs, employment goals and so much more. It was truly great as the girls kept asking us questions about career decisions, about what a car payment is, about credit cards, about our regrets, even about re-dos (you know, where if you could do something all over again, what would it be). In the store it became a discussion of mathematics and if I buy this, how much would I have left over and is it a good investment/decision? I’ll come back to that though as firstly I need to get back to the most important point of this talk.
I asked them to collect all of their money, then we explained that before they pay anyone else, they must pay themselves in the form of saving 25% of their income. We used some great mathematical equations to arrive at the amount that equaled 25% of their total money (my favorite being 1 quarter out of every $1.00 needed to be put aside and totaling that up for the 7y.o.). The 7y.o. Was so excited because of the way I worded it, she seriously said something along the lines of, “so this belongs to me and no one else? No one else can take it from me or use it?” I told her that this was hers to put aside to save for something big, something she needed like a house or a car or even both. The excitement in her was uncontainable! I loved it! Now, I was a little more concerned about 11y.o. DD, she was a different kettle of fish, but to my surprise, she was actually quite excited too, especially when I talked about the fact she will need a car in 5 years and perhaps we could match her dollar value in a car, then hubby chimed in with “well up to $1000.00 anyway.” And he has a point. She will be 16, she needs a reliable beater, if there is such a thing, and not some fancy car. In my opinion, here in the States anyway, she shouldn’t be driving anything over $2000.00 anyway. So if she’s capable of saving $1000.00+ by that time! then I would only ask her to put $1000.00 towards a car. The rest she can save up for a house, travel, college tuition, you know, all those things that suck away our money otherwise known as life and/or debt. 
As far as good investments go, well at this age it’s very subjective. Hubby was all about letting them spend their money on whatever they wanted to and they would soon learn when they made bad decisions and didn’t have any money left over for when they saw something they really wanted, but I couldn’t let them spend $9 on a giant bag of candy! Firstly, we’re already at the dentist enough, secondly, the Mummy in me just says a big fat no to that for all sorts of reasons and thirdly, what a terrible decision! They both got a bit cranky with me and I was definitely the ‘bad’ guy but I was ok with it. Then they wanted to buy nightlights of all things, but I told them they already had nightlights and would it really make them happy to have another nightlight? Is that really a good investment or could they just make do with what they’ve got and perhaps keep their money for something they want even more? In the end, they each bought a small bag of lollies (candy) for $1 and came home with money burning in their wallets. 
The great thing about kids is they forget they’ve got money burning until the next time you go to the store, so next time we go, we’ll deal with that problem. Until then, I’ve got another small amount of pocket money to give them next ‘pay day’ and this time, I’ve got it in change so they can immediately put away 25% into their newly decorated ‘savings’ containers. As far as the 10% giving part of it, we’ll save that for another blog all of it’s own. 

My daughter was teased today…

Parent learning situation today: It was pouring rain this morning and Madison has one coat with her that’s built for snow but not for rain. Me, in my infinite wisdom, thought I would make her a raincoat out of a garbage bag. I’ve done it before, I’ve worn them before, I didn’t even think about it. She likes it when I make them for her so thought it was in good fun to wear it and knew it would protect her from the rain. Well my little girl was teased all the way to school! “Are you made of trash?” “Is that a trash bag you’re wearing? It’s so ugly, why would you wear that?” And all sorts of other mean things! She said that even though it hurt a little bit, she tried not to care what other kids said to her.

When she came home and told me all of this, I’m not going to lie, I snuck off into my room and cried. I cried for my little girl being teased and I cried because I thought I had made a humongous mistake. All sorts of things went through my mind, including going and punching all those second graders who thought it ok to tease my baby (but don’t tell their parents okay 😜) I even thought about putting garbage bags on all of us and going to the bust stop next Tuesday morning and giving them all a good talking too. “I’m lost!” I thought. I didn’t know what the best thing for me to do as a parent was. Then my darling Madison came in and offered me one of her Valentine’s chocolate gifts. Honestly, I was so happy in that moment that she didn’t resent me for putting her in a garbage bag that I lost my train of thought for a while.

We sat together on the couch talking about her day (she learnt how chocolate was made and tasted it both pre and post sugar) and I wondered if I should even bring the teasing incident up again but I had some questions I wanted answered and I wanted to really know where she stood after everything that happened.

So I asked her if she was teased after she got to school and she said yes. But she didn’t take her ‘raincoat’ off until after she got inside the building where she proceeded to tell the other kids that she does have a raincoat but she doesn’t know where it is because our stuff hasn’t arrived yet. (We have just PCS’d – Army talk for permanently relocated, to South Korea) She told them they shouldn’t be so mean & she told me that she felt very sorry for Dolly Parton because of how the kids made fun of her coat when it was so beautiful! (See below for further info on this aside).

I asked Madison if she had thrown the makeshift raincoat away and she looked at me like I was a little loopy and I quote, said “Why would I do that?” I told her I just assumed she would have after everyone had teased her so much and that she would never have to wear one again and I was really sorry I had put her in that situation. My 7 year old daughter turned to me and hugged me and said “Don’t worry Mummy. I’ll wear one again. I don’t care what they think.”

It was right then and there that I was reminded how little it matters about what other people think. Here is my little girl in this situation not even of her own doing, yet she walked away from it in the end a stronger and wiser person. I couldn’t be prouder of her right now and yes, a part of me wants to still go and punch those little girls, but another part of me knows my daughter can handle them on her own!

The Aside:
One of my favourite songs of all time is Dolly Parton’s ‘Coat of Many Colors’ not long ago when we were still in the USA, we all sat down and watched the telemovie and the girls found out the story behind this song as Dolly herself tells it. Obviously it really stuck with Madison but it also made me proud that she related the two situations and though her own ‘coat’ had gotten her teased, her thoughts weren’t selfish but were of this little girl who wore a coat made of rags!