On Tuesday at least one school I am aware of will start Term 4 minus a young learner. The child succumbed to a strand of meningitis at the end of the past week. I'm sure if we conducted a survey of all schools across the province, we would discover that there are many more learners not starting Term 4. The nature of their absence would range from death to illness or because their socio- economic circumstances forced to them simply drop-out of school. And often these kids come from environments that cannot afford to see them not succeeding in school.
I raise the issue of our fragile learners because Term 4 is often a frenetic one...at primary school level, Western Cape schools prepare for systemic tests and internal exams; at high school level the NSC exams kick in alongside their own internal assessments. All this runs parallel to planning for the next academic year and the finalization of year-end promotion and progression processes. And don't forget the performance management process that must be completed alongside the school improvement plans and academic target setting.
I know these are important processes, but let's not allow them to drop-our-guard and vigilance around our children, many thousands of them, that are vulnerable on many levels. Let's not ignore the children quietly sitting in class trying not to draw attention to themselves because they are being abused at home; or the learners acting out because they hungry and not necessarily naughty; the learners whose clothing smell because they have no washing machine or running water to wash them in or cupboards to hang their clothing in; the learners who lash out at the slightest provocation because they've never experienced love; the learners that come to school late habitually because they've become de-facto parents at home; the learners that are ill all-the-time but we're so used to them that we don't interrogate the reasons they never heal...
Yes, we work in a sector that extends way beyond administrative processes...we're shaping tomorrow, one learner-at-a-time. Let's make sure all of them leave our hands capable of facing the future with more confidence than when they first arrived in our care. And it's our level of care that will make the difference!