Where is the community?

Muzi Kuzwayo

Education is too important to leave to the politicians alone. When all the arguments are exhausted and the blame fully apportioned, it is your child alone that feels the pain of failure. So as a parent it is your duty to stand up and help your own child succeed. Too many people have abdicated their children’s teaching of manners, skills and life in general, to the nebulous “department” where no one is truly accountable except for the collective and often despised “They.”

Your child’s education is not the responsibility of the teacher, much as the journey of the motorist is not the responsibility of the petrol attendant. Children spend more or less six hours of their five day week - excluding holidays and the many public holidays we have, the rest they spend with their parents and community who must teach them manners. When they disrespect their teachers, it is because of the parents who have failed them and never the other way round.

During the festive season I saw parents impatiently waiting in long queues to buy their children expensive clothes. Unsurprisingly, there are no such queues in book shops today. Get ready for the insults, Angie, because parents will blame you for lack of delivery of pencils, erasers and all other stationery.

As a parent, when you see a child begging for money on the street corner, ask yourself what have you done to make sure that your grandchildren will not be in a similar situation in the future.

I went to school at a time when primary education was designed to make sure that I would become a good garden boy or an excellent weaver of curios. In Standard one I got many lashes for being unable to weave a grass hat. In Standard two I got more for being unable to stitch a leather bag together. At higher primary school I got more for being unable to build a wooden cart like the ones that are sold at curio shops. A lot of us could have dropped out, but there was no room to manoeuvre between the strictness of our families, the teachers at school and the community.

To be seen outside the school during schools hours was almost a kiss of death. Like many children I also played truant. I remember being driven to school by a man I hardly knew. He cracked his sjambok like a whip and I ran to save life and limb. It may sound fascist but actually he was taking his responsibility as parent seriously. After all, we say it takes a village to raise a child.

We live in a new era where rights have become supreme, and all we can do is watch the children in our communities enjoy their rights while getting lost. We are afraid of doing wrong and so we no longer correct our neighbours’ children. We no longer tell their parents because we have adopted the culture of supporting our children regardless of what they have done to the community.

This is a new world, to paraphrase Steve Biko, “Parent, you are on your own.”

Muzi Kuzwayo is a businessman and author. His latest book is titled Black man's medicine.