Written by Pat Pughe-Parry Pat Pughe-Parry
Last Updated: 18 December 2016 18 December 2016

Science GuyAs soon as a child can't concentrate, the child is being labelled as having ADHD.

Sadly in South Africa what is far more likely to be the case is that the child is hungry and/or traumatised.

Who can concentrate on an empty stomach or when living with violence and abuse as a constant companion? 

I am wondering if we are going about trying to fix education the wrong way and I hope you will hear (read) me out.

No, I am not a teacher but I am a parent and grandparent and I am passionate about education and South Africa.

Teachers understandably lament that parents have abdicated their parenting responsibilities. Parents don't come to parent / teacher meetings, they don't involve themselves in school activities, homework is not supervised and many are reluctant to pay the fees that are necessary to keep the schools going.

Our Lost Generations

In South Africa we have the unique situation that the majority of people aged between 30 and 60 received little or no education. Most of these folk who were fortunate enough to go to school were subjected to the very inferior Bantu Education system. OK, I know we have had "equal" education since 1994 and we have crime, corruption, cronyism, laziness, drugs, HIV, indiscriminate breeding and, and, and ..... Yes, yes, yes but dear reader, please indulge me a little longer.

ClassDiscussThese folk are the parents and grandchildren of the learners in school today. They are not equipped to help their children with homework. Many are functionally illiterate and unemployed living in shacks. The prospect of attending a parent / teacher meeting must be terrifying particularly when their children are attending a "former model C school" where the children are being taught in English. They do not have the resources to provide a stable home life, can't read to their children, help them with maths homework and years without being employed strips people of their dignity and self worth.

My domestic worker at age 33 has a Grade 3 education, speaks almost no English, can't read or write in any language but is immensely proud of her son who is now 12 and in Grade 4. He is more educated than she is but he also cannot speak much English and she has no way of helping him.

Build The Future

Many of our educators are poorly trained due to inequalities in the teacher training colleges. A teacher in one of our local schools sits at her desk banging a piece of plastic pipe on her desk as 50 ten year old learners stand in rows reciting tables. THIS IS NOT EDUCATION!

If you haven't read Great South African Teachers yet you are missing out on the most inspirational book I have read this year. These are the teachers we should all dream of having to teach our children.

In order to create competent children you need to have competent parents and competent educators.

The ADHD Analogy

At Living ADDventure® we do not work with children in isolation, but instead focus on parents and educators because ADHD is highly hereditary and the parents frequently are unmanaged ADDers themselves. Due to their distraction they have not learned the necessary life skills to be competent adults and/or parents.

We focus on helping the parents to learn these necessary skills so they can help their children. We work with the educators so that they become more skilled at dealing with ADHD in their classrooms.

Focusing on Early Childhood Development is essential but unless there is a competent community to nurture these little folk out of school we are just continuing the cycle.

Likewise focusing on getting as many people through matric and into university is equally useless when these students have not had the necessary grounding in literacy and learning life skills which will make them employable which is the ultimate goal of education isn't it?

InclusiveKidsWhat Do We Need To Do?

I believe that in order to truly redress the imbalances of the past we need to focus on the folk who are 30 – 60+. They need to become employable. They need to feel good about who they are so they can earn the respect from their children and the community. They need to earn a living wage and South Africa needs to move away from papering over the situation with social grants and handouts to a society where people are valued and productive. Social grants should be for the elderly, and mentally and physically challenged who are legitimately unable to work.

It sounds all very nice but is it practical? Is it possible? How can it work?

Well my answer is simply that by working with the parents and educators we have helped numerous ADHD families change from dysfunctional, unhappy homes to ones where the parents work together with each other and with the schools and the children have boundaries which are firm and clear.

Of course changing 20 million people is a much bigger task than a few thousand but at LADD® we are only a small team with very limited resources.

There is a dearth of skills in South Africa and so much needs to be done. Churning out thousands of semi-literate, unmotivated matrics who are unemployable each year is not the answer. University is not the Holy Grail. Only a small minority of students should be in university. We should not be dumming down our universities; they should be institutions of higher learning and places where research is carried out at the highest level.

We need to equip every South African with the ability to read and write competently in English and also his/her mother tongue and to be competent to use the internet and other technology that is so vital in the 21st century. This does not mean half hearted ABET courses. It means sending this lost generation back to school as adults to be properly educated where they have access to technology and competent teachers.

Paradoxically we are fortunate that many people are have left the rural areas to live in cities hoping to find work. This means that it is easier to mobilise resources using our highly qualified retired teachers who were dispensed with after 1994. Schools should be used in the afternoons and evenings – "sweat the assets"!

There are many highly qualified educators who could be employed to teach these adults. The more people earn, the more tax they pay, the more money there is for education.

We don't necessarily even need to use qualified teachers. There are plenty of business men and women who have taken early retirement but have a wealth of skills to share and would appreciate earning extra money and expanding their minds.

Technology is the key to 21st century education

On the internet is a wealth of wonderful free teaching resources in print form, audio and video. Fill the school hall with adults who are keen to learn and show them our own famous William Smith educational videos. The Khan Academy has over 3000 videos on almost every topic. These are adults; you don't need lots of teachers to maintain discipline.

Happy Girl I believe that it is essential that each student pays something, even if it is R5.00 from their social grant each month. I do not like the concept of making the students do menial work in exchange for tuition. It reinforces the imbalance and breeds discontent.

Rather encourage them to assist with producing educational material in their own languages, writing stories for children, engaging in story telling at a library or mentoring other students who need help.

Make learning exciting.

When the children see their parents motivated and engaged they will become motivated to achieve as well.

Come on South Africa. Let's do it! Let us change BBBEE from Broad Based Black Economic Empowerment to Broad Based Black Education Empowerment. This way we all become empowered and not just a few.

My dream is to create competent communities throughout South Africa and I am willing to work with anyone who shares the same dream.

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