Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Our School

You know, Layla, in the Capital of my country many people have attempted suicide, some by burning themselves, others by taking poison. These people were not political prisoners. They were simply unemployed people asking the State to find them jobs. Some of those are still there, in the Capital, waiting for the new government to employ them. Some have been there for years now. Some will stay there for years to come. Why? Because, as students, they had only one thing in mind: to finish school and then get a job.

As a non-government teacher, I have taught in various schools, including two government schools, and outside school. The majority, if not all, of the students I’ve had had one thing in mind: to finish school and then get a job. It all looks as if they all were programmed in the same way. Education (at school) is meaningless, pointless, useless, tasteless if it doesn’t lead to a job after graduation.

When they meet after graduation, graduates don’t have anything to talk about other than asking one another if they had found a job. In the family, in the neighbourhood, an unemployed person is worth nothing until he finds a job. A sweeper who has a laughable income becomes more important than a person with a PhD who has failed to find a job.

Yesterday, I met a government English teacher who has been teaching in High School for more than a decade now, and who could not write a single line in Word Format. And that’s just one example. I know university English professors who know nothing about blogs or discussion forums. And yet, in society, they are important, because they have a steady income, some have a car, and a house. They are married and have children. (For those are the signs of success.) Their job? Well, as I said, they teach. They sell English as a grocer would sell vegetables. What about culture? Well, does culture earn you money? If it does, it’s great. Otherwise, why kill yourself by inches?

When these people –I mean these teachers and others like them– have a problem, what do they do? Well, they ask their mothers, who have never been to school. A woman university professor would go to the same marabout her illetrate mother has been used to consulting.

So who’s to blame? I won’t blame anybody. I just dream of a school in which people would be “more” creative. I dream of a school in which both the teacher and the student will have enough time for reading and discussing things. In the schools I know students spend most of the day in the classroom. Their teachers give them an ever-increasing number of books and handouts to read, that they simply –for most of them– won’t read. They just don’t have enough time for reading. They can’t read at home, because they have to eat, to watch TV, to play with friends and to sleep. On the day of the exam, those who haven’t read their books and handouts will copy from those few who have done their homework. The result: graduates who know hardly anything about the World. All they know is that there’s a STATE that MUST find them jobs.

Now, what if there were some more time for reading at school, not at home, I wonder? Why should students spend all their time inside crowded classrooms? What if they were allowed to spend half of the time taking lessons in the classroom and the other half either reading in the library, or even in the courtyard, or discussing among themselves what they read? What if the teachers themselves were allowed – if not forced– to spend some of their time at school reading and learning skills, such as typing a text in Word Format? As simple as that. That’s the school I dream of. A school in which a student could learn much about the World, about life, about problems and about ways of solving one’s problems creatively without relying on the State to do everything for them? I know I’m just dreaming. But unlike many colleagues and ex-classmates, I don’t rely on my government to do everything for me. See, Layla, what I mean? That’s my dream school.


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