If we have an education system that fails to educate people on the receiving end... Can it really be labelled as education then? Life Orientation [L.O] has been criticized for being unable to equip learners with the necessary skills and training they need. In addition to this, L.O has been unable to equip learners to deal with their realities. This, based on the assumption that learners have no knowledge of what the real world consists of.
Many learners are faced with patriarchy, discovering their sexuality and intersectionality but because they have not been educated about said issues, they cannot identify these issues in their lives. These are but a few of the issues we mention in passing but rarely debunk and use to adjust the education system, as a means to educate people on the issues that they are currently facing.
In light of the physical attack that occurred at a school in Kwa-Zulu Natal, a male in my Journalism class stated that we needed to analyse all the angles of the attack. He proposed that the boy who was attacking the girl possibly grew up in a household or community where domestic violence had been normalized.
This idea that the boy's actions can be justified or should be given the opportunity to be justified is exactly why we continue to have these conversations about gendered violence, rape culture and the lack of intersectionality; because somehow people always find a way to justify problematic behaviour.
I have found myself having to unlearn and relearn numerous things that I didn't know was problematic or offensive.
Keeping in mind that there are 24,451 public schools in South Africa, it would be impossible to have L.O taught in the same manner in all schools for all grades. But the inconsistency in the syllabus itself and its lack of representation of people's realities and lived experiences, is one that should be raising tension and should be causing a bit of panic.
I would like to draw on my L.O experience, which is not an indication of my teachers but rather of the flawed education system. I learnt that university would be a culture shock. I would not define my experience as being shocked but I was certainly made aware of other cultures. Not only cultures based on ethnicity but I learnt about the 'Rhodent culture' and how it transcends into drinking culture and makes relationships seem like a fallacy.
In hindsight, I understand why we can't learn about the individual cultures in various universities. But there were several issues that were left either unattended or not critically engaged with enough such as gender, sexuality, religions [debunking them], rape, sexual violence, mental issues and intersectionality.
The above-mentioned issues are pertinent in educating learners about the realities they will come to experience. I have found myself having to unlearn and relearn numerous things that I didn't know was problematic or offensive. I wasn't aware of the fact that people were non-gender binary which means that they don't conform to any gender and therefore should be addressed as 'they', 'their' or 'them'.
The reason why ableism is being perpetuated through language, especially, is because many people are completely ignorant to the existence of ableism itself.
This might seem tedious to some but it is important to people who are non-gender binary. I believe that pronouns are stressed within the education system but only when we refer to heterosexuality. This then perpetuates the notion of heteronormativity and creates an erasure of people who are not heterosexual.
I have realized that the language I used was ableist. Ableism simply defined is discrimination in favour of able-bodied people. But this definition is too simple to embody what ableism actually is. A few examples of ableist language is words such as 'crazy', 'insane', 'deaf', 'dumb' and 'lame'. These words on their own aren't ableist but become ableist when they are used in certain contexts.
I asked my friend to do something for me and she asked me to repeat what I said, to which I responded, "Did I stutter?" That was ableist of me! And it is important for us to realize our mistakes and call ourselves out. And the reason why ableism is being perpetuated through language, especially, is because many people are completely ignorant to the existence of ableism itself.
I have only recently started to grapple with the notion of intersectionality only because, by its very nature, is complex. Intersectionality is the interconnected nature of social categorizations such as race, class, and gender, creating overlapping and interdependent systems of discrimination or disadvantage.
We need an education system that will prove to be effective.
I have always believed that I could only occupy or embody one identity marker at a time but realized at university, that I occupy multiple identities at once and that I cannot separate them from each other. They are all simultaneous and in realising this, I found it easier to navigate around my identity.
I wish these were the topics we covered during L.O as they have moulded me and continue to mould me because this process of unlearning and relearning is a continuous one.
It is a process that will help learners link terms with their realities, it will conceptualize their lived experiences. We need an education system that will prove to be effective.