The Covid 19 Global pandemic together with the recent murder of George Floyd (in the USA), has highlighted the many inequalities and atrocities committed by people towards other people, by man towards the Earth, by the Have’s towards the Have nots. Covid has stirred the decay that underlies many nations of the world. The George Floyd incident is not something that we South Africans can disown, and say “ it is not our problem…it happened in another continent.” If anything, Covid has shown how interconnected we all are. And not so long ago, this could easily have been “us” embroiled in a struggle for justice. For too long the majority of South Africans remained disenfranchised and marginalized. Race and racism is a reality that we are only too familiar with.
COVID-19 has also brought a myriad of opportunities for change, for changing the status quo. As South African Montessorians, we now have the opportunity to act pro-actively, to build a diverse equitable, inclusive society. We can lead the way, by making our schools more inclusive, by providing quality education to marginalized children, and ensuring that we include children of all cultures, religions, and races from different economic backgrounds. On a pragmatic level, it may entail ensuring that 20-25% of the children attending our schools are on a bursary or scholarship.
It does not stop there. To do this effectively, we need to start with:
Ourselves: The inner work of Montessori teachers, should be to be aware and conscious of their own prejudices and ideologies. Only then, can we change our behaviour towards the “other.” This is hard work and requires persistent self-awareness and constant self-examination. And it’s up to all of us – black, white, Muslim, Christian to root it out.
Changing the schools’ culture: Communication from our schools should be inclusive of the diverse school community of teachers, children, and parents. This involves listening to those whose lives are different from ours. And, language and communication to parents need to move away from us them mode to a “We “mode of thinking and doing. The more we connect with people of diverse backgrounds, the less chance there is of maintaining stereotypes and prejudices.
Then, the hiring of staff needs to be more equitable, diverse, and inclusive to accommodate the school community. All this requires critical self – reflection, adaptability, intentional systemic change, and a willingness to listen to criticism.
Our curriculums need to be inclusive, environment friendly, and alert to the carbon footprint we leave behind. A conscious effort should be made to include the whole school community towards a culture of caring, protecting and preserving the planet for the next generations. Recycling, sharing rides to school, growing and cooking fresh homegrown food, even doing some classes from home online to reduce the commute and traffic need to become the new-normal.
As we adapt to the wearing of the mask, no physical contact, and washing of hands, I pray too, that becoming inclusive, sharing with others less fortunate, and educating our nation’s children so that no child is left behind, becomes as natural to each of us as breathing the fresh air around us.
“When you get, give. When you learn, teach.”
– Maya Angelou