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As we come to the end of a year, we were reminded how fragile human life is

Brian Isaacs writes about when reflecting on the year, we have to be aware of how poor schools have been affected by the pandemic, and how fragile human life is. Picture: Courtney Africa/African News Agency

Brian Isaacs writes about when reflecting on the year, we have to be aware of how poor schools have been affected by the pandemic, and how fragile human life is. Picture: Courtney Africa/African News Agency

Published Dec 11, 2020

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by Brian Isaacs

As we come to the end of a year none of us could have predicted we have to ask ourselves whether the way we did things in education will ever be the same again. We were reminded how fragile human life is and how a minute virus changed how we did things dramatically.

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However, we know that living organisms, including Homo sapiens, are resilient and adaptable to changing conditions.

We all leant along the way how to deal with the virus. There are the alarmists who believe life must stop to prevent the loss of life. Others who deny the presence of the coronavirus and that life must continue normally and those who believe that we have to learn to live with this deadly virus.

Those schools who have the financial support managed to deal with the pandemic but it was in the schools of the poor that students found it difficult to cope because of insufficient space and lack of teachers. It is predicted by world experts that the virus will peak in January and February 2021.

How can the schools of the poor that form the majority of schools in SA learn from the previous eight months? One thing we cannot do is to stop living. Life will go on. School communities need to remain vigilant. We need to take the necessary precautions and not let our guard down.

Through the teachers, we must inject enthusiasm into our students. These are our schools, our country and we must take hands with the parents, teachers and students and build a country of hope and success.

Wherever I am invited to address teachers, parents and students at schools my message is very clear – aim for academic excellence, involve students in as many extra-mural activities as possible, but more importantly, give students the political knowledge and tools to build a brighter future for all.

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I believe that all children are the same. They all want to do well and they all want to succeed. It is tough being a teacher, but the rewards for teachers are tremendous.

I met a parent who works in a supermarket last year and she was speaking to a group of her friends when I passed her in the shop. Her daughter had given the school many problems and the mother tried to embarrass me in front of her friends in the supermarket by saying: "Mr Isaacs, I just want to tell you that my daughter is doing exceptionally well. Remember you told her she would never achieve anything!"

The mother of course never told the group that I added when I addressed her daughter: "You have the potential and will succeed if you apply yourself." My reply to the parent was: "Congratulations on your child's success, give her my regards!

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Money cannot buy the feeling you as a teacher receive when you meet former students (legendary Nadeem Hendricks, former principal of Trafalgar, always referred to his students as former not ex-students because ex to him meant they were no longer students of his school) and they remind you of how you changed their lives. That is what teaching is all about – changing the lives of students so that they can change SA for the better.

So my teacher comrades (Che Guevara used the term comrade as an affectionate word to describe people who assist society asking for nothing in return), you have come through an extremely unexpected and tough year. I thank you!

* Brian Isaacs obtained a BSc (UWC) in 1975, a Secondary Teacher’s Diploma in 1976, BEd (UWC) in 1981, and MEd (UWC) in 1992. He is a former matriculant, teacher and principal at South Peninsula High School.

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** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.

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