Picture: IOL LIFESTYLE, INDEPENDENT MEDIA, SXC.HU
OPINION - The Austerville school situation barely highlights what is happening in the majority of schools, private, public or illegal.

A private school I taught at still has a roof leaking whenever it rains, unattended to for years. Another private school I taught at had no drinking water fountain, and when addressed with the principal obtained the response: “Relax these kids are wealthy. They all bring their own bottled water.”

The lack of a regular supply of soap and toilet paper similarly obtained the predicable: “They don’t use the soap; cleaners steal them. The boys dump the paper into the toilet bowl, so we keep a supply with the teacher.”

The new dust-free white boards have replaced chalkboards, and examination writing material now has to be supplied by the pupil in many private schools. Some libraries in public schools have virtually disappeared, being converted into either classrooms or staff rooms.

It must be emphasised that not all of these, and many more, discrepancies are solely the fault of the management of the schools.

Shakespeare exclaims that the fault lies not in our stars, but in ourselves. But this is not true in the analysis of the state of our most important institutions.

The sudden evolution from apartheid to freedom has brought with it an overloading of all previously manageable systems. Mass urbanisation of people from the majority group, very small budget allowances from the state, low or no school fees, high pupil-teacher ratios due to rationalisation of staff, and other matters have all conspired to make public schools high-pressure vessels with some form or other of imminent eruption always around the next corner.

The situation is not very much better in private schools where the high cost of survival continues to eat into budgets for so-called simple commodities, where pupil-teacher ratios are not as low as parents imagine, and where, like principals of ordinary schools, managements struggle to balance the books between day-to-day running costs, reasonably good-quality teachers, affordable fees and, of course, some profits for shareholders.

All of these factors and many others that are far more complex, like negative attitudes from all concerned parties - parents, pupils, education department - all make for a poor product of a pupil being churned out.

The most important priority for any school management - public or private - used to be looking for the best methods to obtain the highest standard of education, to equip and assist pupils to pursue higher forms of academic achievement, to obtain meaningful careers, to ultimately become good citizens and serve the community.

Now, the plot has been lost. The administration of all institutions is now solely focused on economic survival, which has relegated all else to the dustbin.

The very high incidence of other blow-outs like bullying, rape and other forms of violence is merely drawing a very sad face of the impersonal personality that the school has become.

Daily News