If you’re a mom whose kid is three turning four then you may have been through the Grade R application process, but if your kid is four turning five then you know ALL about the ‘interview process’ which is the most gruelling part of this journey. The subtle and not-so-subtle vying for a spot for your kid can bring out all of the stress and all of the ugly in any ‘prospective parent’. It’s tough out there! Everyone just wants the best for their kid.
I’m a white Southern Suburbs mom of a black son who is ready for big school next year and we want the best for him. I don’t want to make too big of a deal of it, but it is kind of a big deal and choosing a school has been one of the hardest decisions in my life so far. My husband and I want Ilan to go to a great school so that he can get a great education that will expose him to opportunity in life, but we also want him to go to a school that is diverse with diversity reflected in the school body as well as the staff room. Sadly you can’t have your cake and eat it at many schools here in the Southern Suburbs of Cape Town and I blame apartheid.
I hate apartheid and what it has done and is still doing to our country. I absolutely hate the geographical segregation which still contrasts Cape Town and other South African cities today and that this means that real diversity at most schools is so slow to come into effect due to small specified ‘catchment areas’.
I feel so strongly that all schools need to address diversity as a priority and make sincere and active efforts to extend openings to black families for their young black kids. A Grade R with a handful of black kids is just not good enough – regardless of how many black kids applied for a position, live in the area or can afford the fees. It’s not good enough that black or coloured children at some schools may feel the ‘odd one out’ and it is equally not good enough that white kids aren’t given the opportunity to grow important friendships with kids who don’t look like them either. This isn’t just an issue for Moms of black kids, it’s an issue for ALL Moms.
Anyway, back to the acceptance forms and the crying. My husband and I have walked such a journey trying to decide what school will be the best fit for our family and have had some meaningful conversations about diversity and transformation with the principals of three schools in our area. Deep down, we both knew that we would probably still go with our first choice school if Ilan was accepted there but it took us until the very last day for us to hand in our acceptance forms. I cried when we completed the acceptance forms because it felt like such a heavy decision to accept our school of choice as the dream of all schools representing complete integrated diversity is still just a dream.
I feel so much better now that we’ve made our school decision but now it’s time to have those difficult chats about why it is so important to see colour at schools, even if the kids are all united behind the same school badge. I’m inspired by a quote from recent blog post that I read about investing in your schools, ‘Use your privilege to push for diversity (both in student bodies and in teaching staff) and equality for kids of colour at your children’s school. As a white parent, you have a lot of power. Stand up and say something if you see racism happening. Ask the school to recruit more Black teachers.’ (https://myrealkid.com)
Let’s rally together and do something to shake things up at our schools!
*Note: This post is my opinion only, I don’t claim to know all the facts or have all the answers but I’m keen to get talking about this more. I also know that this is a complex issue and that schools are bound by regulations set by the Education Department to a certain degree but my heart is to see change in our childrens’ lifetimes.