The subject was “education”. If you know me at all, or if you don´t, have a look back at some of the previous articles I´ve written, but to me EDUCATION is THE most important factor in a child´s life. Not just because of the obvious benefits to them, but because these little people, annoying though they might be, are the future of us, the planet and everything thereon. If we destroy or damage their lives, we are destroying the future for everybody.
So, anyway, back to the point before I ramble on too much. In my opinion, education should be the last thing that governments cut. I accept that savings have to be made, nobody has a limitless amount of cash, but education (and health for that matter) is precious.
This week, the councillor for education announced the slashing of another 13 teachers in Orihuela municipality, where there are 31 schools in total, if memory serves me right, and this latest reduction is on top of the 23 jobs already lost last year. In addition, 6 classes are being removed, again this on top of 13 already amalgamated last year. Class sizes increase; teacher numbers decrease and the people responsible don´t consider this to be detrimental.
Then we look at the quality of the buildings. On the Orihuela Costa, there are two schools that are operating from portacabins. One has been like that for 10 years, the other for 8. That means that entire generations have been schooled in these temporary units. How temporary are they?
I went to one of the schools about a year or so ago, covering a story about parents protesting, and I was genuinely appalled by the conditions. The dining room is unable to accommodate all of the kids; there is no shelter outside to protect them from rain, or sun. Kids eat packed lunches in the street, sat on the floor, and the conditions are genuinely not unlike those of a third world country. My visit was before some of the units were taken away too, cramming more people into what little space they have.
I also covered another protest in Torrevieja, which showed the passion that a lot of people also have for education and investment in the future, but still falling on death ears it would seem. Calls for “education not corruption” also became a mantra.
We hear amazing stories of people like Shakira, who has helped countless kids in Colombia by helping to build schools there. UNICEF have campaigns helping disadvantaged kids in Africa get to school, and many more similar activities worldwide, and yet, here on our doorstep, the plight of children in a country considered affluent, compared to those “in need”, are being ignored by the very authorities trusted to serve them.
Bringing it back locally though, there seems to be an ever increasing number of teachers who break away into the world of politics, presumably to try to “make a difference”, but what can they actually do?
When I was talking to the councillor today, we were discussing the cuts that I mentioned, but also an initiative that took place a few weeks ago. As part of an environmental campaign, the town hall decided to plant a number of saplings in the school grounds. They were on the site of the “temporary” buildings, but there were three aims to the project. The first was to recognise the “day of the tree”, no problems there. Secondly, was to try and brighten up the grounds, which is a municipal plot anyway, but this didn´t go down too well, as a number of the parents saw the move as proving that the portacabins are “here to stay”, but the councillor says that was never the case, but the trees certainly can stay, whatever is put on the land in the future.
But the third point, which I considered to be of utmost importance, albeit played down a little too much, was for the benefit of the kids and their education. What was decided was that each class would take responsibility for a tree, to learn about care and nurturing, and then put their learning into action by tending to the needs of the tree during their stay at the school, and even beyond that into the future. Much like the pets that a lot of schools used to adopt, this gave valuable lessons in the importance of the environment, caring for things, learning how to care for them and providing a purpose.
There were two young teachers involved in the campaign, who had the audience of their pupils lapping up every word they were saying. The skills that this pair had in reaching out to the youngsters, getting them involved and nurturing them, who in turn would transpose that information to their own skill set, was what teaching is all about.
We all know that the phrase “teachers are teachers” is complete and utter rubbish. Whatever our age now, we can all look back and remember that there were good teachers, and there were bad teachers, although the reasons we assigned to each may well have changed with our maturity, the fact still remains. Good and bad exists.
The councillor continued to tell me then that these two teachers I have described are on the “hit list” and they will no longer have a job. Bad for them, sure, no work, no pay, no immediate hope for the future in doing what they clearly had both a skill and passion for. But what about those who watched, open mouthed, absorbing what the gift of education they were given? What happens to the children, those who were inspired and who also knows the effects this might have on them in the future. Who knows the calibre of teacher that will replace what they have lost? The fact is nobody, but by the same virtue, nothing may change, there may be no effect, but somehow I can´t help but thinking we are talking about a lot of people suffering through the harsh realities of the potential of destroying people´s lives.
The only thing I can say with some conviction is that I don´t believe this is right. I want change, society needs change, but I don´t know what that change might actually be. Can we trust politicians? Is it right that they have a somewhat lavish lifestyle, at the expense of the tax payer, property, cars, iPads, expenses and much more besides, whilst children are suffering?
Incidentally, I have not mentioned any of the councillor´s names, nor their political leanings, and that is totally intentional, as I actually don´t think it matters in the sense that we are not talking about politics, game scoring, winning, we are talking about people, real lives and the effects that these decisions are having on the future of us all.
Dear Politicians, wherever you are, please forget anything and everything you might think you are doing and stop cutting back on education, for the future of us all. Please.