‘Hashtag we teach the nation’
Those who follow me on Twitter @BTlhobogang would have realised that I use the #WeTeachTheNation on many of my tweets, especially those that are about education issues.
Now let us take this post as one of my endeavors towards the “we teach the nation” agenda. The subject of discussion today is the role of public and private hospitals and schools. I gave the lesson during a journey by bus. It was an opportunity that presented itself and I just sprung to action like that, because it brought to life a subject that had been itching to be spoken about for some time. I thought I should share the lesson with my virtual community as well. The story goes…
But let me start with a prologue
When I grew up I used to hear people talk about how unwise it is to send a child to an expensive private school (commonly known as English Medium). One of the reasons advanced has always been, these children end up at the same university with the rest of the children from public schools, perform just like everyone and sometimes even worse. They become teachers, lawyers, and accountants just like any other graduate. I have been classmates with children from private schools from junior secondary school, all the way to university and for some reason I used to pay attention to their performance and realised that the prevailing views about their non-exceptional performance held true, and thought that was nothing abnormal. What I did not understand was the reason behind paying attention to these children to a point of casting a shadow of negativity over their privileges. Unfortunately the scrutiny and debates about the importance of taking children to private schools still prevail.
Thanks to social media people have the opportunity to share their opinions on a more public forum, which always attract responses of sorts, including angry ones. Justifiably so. I mean who wants to explain themselves, particularly the fact that their parents were able to give them the best education.
This post however is not about who has money, which school they take their children to or what happens to those children after they complete school. As an educator and someone who believes in children receiving the best of anything, I want to remind the private school skeptics that these schools play a very significant role not just in the lives of those who can afford them but to the entire nation. Here is why.
Firstly, private schools give children with learning disabilities a bearable if not pleasant learning experience, a privilege they would otherwise not get if they went to public schools. The low numbers and practical teacher student ratio in private schools facilitates this. By extension this furthers the chances of reaching tertiary education for these children with special needs. So arguments that they were outperformed by students from public schools should be ditched because in academics some learners will always obtain better grades than others.
On the issue of career choice for private school products, it is very unfair to expect them to become doctors and engineers [not that I know what the skeptics recommendations are]. These children have the right to choose a career they like, according to their talents and other considerations that have to be made when choosing a career. The last thing they need is unwarranted pressure from the public. We all know how much pressure they might be receiving from home, emanating from the parents’ feeling that they invested so much on them… In the end we need to bear in mind that they are just ordinary children who had the privilege of being raised by well-off parents and it is not a crime.
The second argument in favour of private schools is that they relieve the government of the burden of providing education for an extra twenty thousand or more children. If that does not make one appreciate the sacrifice of parents who send their children to these expensive than I do not know what will.
Now back to the lesson in the bus
As we drove past Bokamoso Private Hospital the driver marveled sarcastically at the car park that was filled to capacity (probably because it was visiting hour), a fact to which he was oblivious, judging by the remark he made. I deduced from his comment that according to him all those cars belonged to patients who had so much money and thought it was status symbol to go to a private hospital instead of a public one. “Ba robetse mo baji ba madi. Bare ke bokwete go lala mo boalong jo bo duelelwang ekare o mo hoteleng…” (Verbatim)
The bus conductor responded in the affirmative and a few passengers who were within earshot joined the conversation. I stood up, walked to the front and stood right behind the glass that separates the driver from the rest of the passengers. I must confess I deliberately appealed to emotions to win the people’s audience and this was my opening statement.
“You know I am a teacher and whenever I am not well I think of the ‘perfect’ time to seek medical assistance. By perfect time I mean outside teaching hours, so that I do not miss my lessons… because I bring my students first. Now think about a police officer, an immigration or transport officer… or any other public employee who works 7:30 to 4:30. If they go to a public hospital where there is no provision for appointments such that one can estimate one’s arrival and departure time from the facility, what happens to the clients who need their services during the many hours they spend queuing at the health facility?”
I was happy I got the audience of the passengers. [Yeah! I command authority like that].
Now I could go on and explain the impact of the above scenario on productivity. Next time you go to an office for any service and you see an empty chair behind a computer know that the officer could be in a long queue at a public health facility and you might have to go for days without getting assistance. On the flip side, that person could have dashed to a private hospital and they would be back in the shortest time possible, in which case you should smile and thank those people who are “paying for their hospital beds”.
And just like private schools, these hospitals are serving a significant percentage of the population which would otherwise have to be catered for by the government. So taxpayers’ money can be used to do other things besides providing health.
You know what I think the next topic of discussion should be? Political education. In the meantime let me work on the right words to use, in the interest of political correctness.