From the Principal’s Desk – 13 July, 2017
During my first lesson this term with my IBDP1 Theory of Knowledge (TOK) class, and before I could even start the new topic, the inevitable question was posed to me from one of my students in the back row; “Sir, what are your thoughts on the riots experienced in Hout Bay last week?”. As anyone in any of my classes will confirm, there is no topic that we cannot debate or discuss and so discuss it we did. Now if you know anything about our IBDP1 class, it is this: they are the quintessential IB class. They are not scared to ask a question, share their viewpoint or take a position on a controversial topic. Although sometimes the line between being a “smarty pants” and a genuine enquirer can become blurred, I do so enjoy it when students engage on relevant and pertinent topics. It shows that they care about what is happening around them.
So I answered the question. I told my class that I fully support a person’s right to protest as enshrined in Chapter 2 of our Constitution, otherwise known as the Bill of Rights. In fact the actual text reads as follows:
“Assembly, demonstration, picket and petition – Everyone has the right, peacefully and unarmed, to assemble, to demonstrate, to picket and to present petitions”.
However, as is with every right, there is a responsibility attached. I made it quite clear that I could not condone the destruction of property, intimidation of people and general lawlessness that accompanied the protests. The debate then went onto the reasons for the protests, understanding and empathising with the genuine plight and grievances that people in the Hout Bay community have and what better ways (if any) people could ensure that their voices are heard and real change is affected. It really was a great discussion allowing a plethora of perspectives and opinions.
While I have no intention of publicly weighing in on anything political in my weekly newsletters, this story again highlights the importance of using current events to teach life lessons to our students. Beyond the obvious lessons on rights and responsibilities that may be drawn upon, there is the interesting comparison of recent events in Hamburg at the G20 meeting where protests erupted in a first world country in a very similar manner – its seems that the modern form of protest includes destruction and intimidation, which is rather sad when you consider how precious (and important) the right to protest can be.
I think back to the peaceful protest the country experienced in April this year when people of all backgrounds marched to “Save SA”. I am reminded of the peaceful and very powerful Defiance Campaign of 1952 which demonstrated the power of the people and I stand in awe of legends like Mahatma Gandhi who employed nonviolent civil disobedience, resulting in India gaining independence and further inspiring movements for civil rights and freedom across the world. These powerful non-violent moments in history will often stand the test of time as examples of bravery and “the right way of doing something”.
As our children watch and observe the often chaotic world around us, it is important that we as educators and parents engage and talk through these issues to help our children make sense of what is happening. It is important to stand up and fight for what is right and yet at the same time to condemn that which is wrong. A child is never too young to learn the powerful and important lesson that is the balance between Rights and Responsibilities. In fact to deny a child either one is detrimental to their wellbeing and happiness. As a global society made up of many faiths, races, and cultures we have to ensure that both are taught and practised equally.
So, as we prepare to celebrate the birthday of Nelson Mandela next week (18 July) and join in the 67 minutes of service that many around the world will participate in, let’s not forget what it means to be responsible, caring citizens of our community. After all, we are an IB World School and we cannot just “talk the talk” but rather we need to “walk the walk” too.