OPINION: Open letter to my child’s preschool
I loved the first part of the concert where the children, all aged 6 and below, recited nursery rhymes and sang kid's songs. It's always delightful to see little kids just being kids and their adorable, innocent selves. I see that so much time and effort has been put into the costumes and rehearsals.
I'm sure many parents attend preschool concerts expecting cute and innocent performances, which is how the concert began - but then there's the rapid U-turn with a string of inappropriate mainstream songs. I'm not sure if you've listened closely to the lyrics and language in the songs?
Other parents may not be as outspoken as me and many, sadly, may not even be concerned, but my husband and I try our best to raise our children positively in a world full of negativity, so that they can grow up to be strong and independent while also making good life choices. I am also far from conservative and my concerns are shared by my partner who is also definitely not a prude.
Here's a brief summary of my concerns:
Song 1 - Gimme Hope Jo'anna is a tad serious song for the children as it is a struggle song with some strong lyrics with direct references to killing, bribery and guns - but I think it was the mildest of the songs.
Song 2 - Nae Nae is popular and catchy but why were the little boys the only ones dancing to it? I think if both girls and boys were dancing together for that song - if it was thought that pop songs were absolutely essential for a preschool concert - that would have been the best choice and should have been left at that.
Song 3 - The 5/6 year old girls performing All about the bass is my biggest concern. It's a song that's literally about bums and women wanting to please men. It also includes words like 'bitch'. Why were the girls the only ones dancing to the song? Who decided to put bright red lipstick on the little girls and why? Why were they taught to gyrate their hips? Of course, many of them lack the co-ordination to do most of the moves at such a young age, but I don't want my child learning those moves at this age, and when my girls are in their late teens and start going to parties and clubs, I certainly don't need to see their sexy dance moves, let alone have to watch it at a preschool concert in the context of that song.
Song 4 - Fireball has lyrics and themes that are downright not suitable for children, including drinking and bad language. Yes, they may not know what some of those things are, but most were singing along and I don't want my 5-year-old repeating any of that nonsense or asking me to explain why the man wants the woman to get naked and take off all her clothes.
Song 5 - Cheerleader is another song that sexualises women and reinforces the idea that girls/women must serve men and introduces the word 'cheating' in relation to men and women, and hence, insecurities.
I believe that the decision to expose children to inappropriate language, TV, music, behaviours etc is solely that of the parent/s and with music, advertising and TV everywhere, protecting our children is tough enough without having to worry about their school exposing them to such negative media.
Even if the songs were just being used as fillers in between other performances or before the concert started, it would still be a wrong choice of music given the event, age groups, venue and aim of educating young children. Just because a song is catchy or popular does not mean that it's acceptable for you to expose other people's little children to it.
With teen pregnancy, early sexual activity among children and gender discrimination being huge problems in South Africa, a child's early learning foundation is so important to give them the tools to combat these issues when they are older.
We should never underestimate the influence of anything that a young child is exposed to and how it affects their minds and concepts at such an age when they are like sponges, absorbing and learning from every single moment of their lives.
I sincerely hope that all responsible for the organising of the concert, choice of songs and the choreography and costumes take time to carefully reflect on the inappropriate song decisions and the possible long-term impact on young and impressionable children who are entrusted into your care - often out of necessity for parents who have to find day care for young children while working to provide for families.
A concerned mum.
Sholain Govender-Bateman is a Pretoria-based new media journalism lecturer, former The Star and Pretoria News journalist and editor of magazines. She is mum to two girls, Isobel and Aishwari, and wife to Barry Bateman. Follow her on Twitter: @sholain