For the last month and a half I’ve been involved in an industrial theatre roadshow aimed at nursery schools/daycare centres in the Western Cape area. The age of the target audience ranges between 2-7 years old. The company producing the show is marketing premium bread and multivitamins to higher LSM (Living Standard Measures) schools, and is using children’s theatre as a medium to administer this. In other words, children of higher income earning families are more likely to request their parents to purchase the products presented in the show the next time they are at the shops – since higher LSM parents can afford to purchase more pricey brands. However, many of the schools we’ve attended fall within the lower LSM bracket and regardless of whether the children at these schools desire such products, it’s unlikely their parents are able to afford them. Among the lower LSM schools we’ve attended (which are usually found within the previously disadvantaged areas and are mostly inhabited by coloured/black people) we’ve noticed a markedly different interpersonal tendency/reaction to the show, than at the higher LSM schools. Keep in mind that in the Western Cape, the coloured or mixed-race demographic are in majority. Our attending lower LSM schools is clearly an admin error, but makes for interesting debate since I get to witness the best and the worst of nursery school education.
Generally, the higher LSM schools are comprised of mainly white learners (constituting approximately 80% of the school demographic with the odd coloured/black or asian child interspersed here and there) – obviously an offshoot of apartheid’s white privilege system still in effect. This is not meant as a racial provocation, it’s simply an observation of the truth. Children who attend these schools are generally very intellectually stimulated, engaged, vocal, enjoy Q&A games and are also not afraid to interact with and talk freely with adults. Some of them are so stimulated that they actually interrupt the show’s proceedings to express their opinions. Their parents are very involved in school life and since the show is meant to educate children about healthy eating habits, they are more often than not already clued up about what foods are best and generally already consume multivitamins. Playing a caveman, these children are generally more easily frightened by my wig and tend to start crying hysterically when I enter for the first time. It’s interesting that during the singing and dancing routines, these children don’t easily participate and prefer minimal movements if none at all.
At most lower LSM schools, the observation is largely the opposite. Children from these backgrounds are taught by their teachers to sit extremely quietly and are almost in many cases, not allowed to interact. This results in less engagement and overall interaction, which sometimes leads to them staring at us blankly. The importance of thinking for yourself is mostly neglected. They tend not to respond to Q&A games, are shy and in some cases don’t appear to fully comprehend what the show is all about. In comparison to the higher LSM schools however, these children love to sing and dance and are not as easily frightened by my caveman garb.
It is saddening how little our education system has changed over the years. Being a person of mixed-race and having grown up in a lower LSM area (I still live in a lower LSM area), it breaks my heart that the previously disadvantaged continue to struggle and are being educated in a system that still favours mental slavery. The slavery that gets passed on from generation to generation, a non-physical, socio-economic and political slavery.
It frustrates me how little things have changed even though South Africa has been in democracy for the last 19 years. I mean, back when I attended nursery school we weren’t even in democracy yet and so I understand how it was then, and how it is now. I also understand how it should be. I come from a culture that teaches you to mindlessly work and follow instructions, earning money so that you can purchase more things that perpetuate the cycle of economic slavery – eventually you end up working for the very thing that keeps you enslaved. We were never taught to question the status quo, it’s like we unwittingly became part of a vicious cycle that never had our best interests at heart.
I’ve noticed that white children are weaned from a young age to think differently, to aspire to more, to make something out of their lives – and their parents are able and willing to back them in their pursuits. Most coloured people are inadvertently taught subservience, taught dependency, are socially malformed – which is why I think they become attached to substance abuse, debt and small minded thinking. We are taught to play small from a very young age. We are history’s forgotten children. We are never recognised in the media as anything else but bums, drunkards, gangsters, low lifes and poor service workers.
This Facebook rant I posted a few weeks ago sums it up quite well:
“I’ve often wondered why my “coloured” friends and I have to fend off this learned kind of mental slavery, that inhibits us from fully endeavouring life, chasing opportunities, creating our own paths – while simultaneously trying to battle family negativity, and this teaching that acquiring loads of money will solve every problem, every wound, every cynical state of mind. Well, in the last 3 weeks I’ve been doing a roadshow to various schools in the WC – and it’s occured to me that pre-dominantly higher LSM and white schools’ learners are self-assured, unafraid to ask questions and interact with ideas, assertive – whereas coloured/black learners don’t engage, don’t interact – are taught to shutup and not think for themselves, and generally tend to stare blankly when asked a question. Our families need to unhook this mental and spiritual slavery off us! How can we unlearn years and years of bullshit – and still are expected to become fully formed, fully realised people, leaders, mentors, great thinkers, artists, scientists!”
Some interesting comments follow:
What’s your opinion on all of this?
*On a side note, the name Noah is the most trending name in nursery schools right now – and also by a large margin. Goodbye John and David, Hello Noah!