Let’s talk about the matric ball dramas of the last few weeks.
There’s been lots of debate around schools like Modderdam High in Bonteheuwel cancelling their matric balls due to bad grades.
As far as I can tell, the opinion is split down the middle, with people both supporting the decision and criticising the school for ruining the kids’ last year at school.
Now that last bit is a gross overstatement, because a fancy-dress party shouldn’t be the epitome of achievement at the end of your schooling career.
Excellent grades should be, but let’s be realistic here. Some kids treat their matric ball like it’s going to be the highlight of their lives; and to be fair, perhaps that’s their plan.
I understand that educators are at their wits’ end about general bad behaviour, coupled with poor performance.
Perhaps they don’t feel that these kids deserve a celebration that is akin to rewarding bad behaviour and academic mediocrity.
And, of course, these young adults must learn that actions have consequences.
All of this makes perfect sense. In a perfect world. But we don’t live in one, and even less so when it comes to the Cape Flats.
When it comes to under-performance, there are simply too many variables that are not being considered.
For example, we all understand that surrounding yourself with successful people breeds ambition. But the reverse also applies, and in this case, the kids have very little choice in the matter.
I suggest that educators change the entire thinking around high school and what it means to excel over the five years and in life in general.
As us parents know, the best way to set a young child straight is to take away a privilege that they really enjoy having.
Then when they step out of line again, you can simply threaten to do so again.
It takes a few times, but once they know you are serious, you generally get the desired results.
I would suggest that high school as a whole, not only matric, employs this strategy going forward.
Yes, the matric ball should be seen as a privilege but over the years, an excitement and anticipation is built up the closer they get.
They spend four years watching their communities celebrate matriculants around them, so naturally they expect their turn to come.
It has become a rite of passage that signifies the end of one era and the beginning of another.
It is a symbolic end of their childhood innocence and the start of them having to do some serious adulting, as working members of society, but hopefully as tertiary students.
It also celebrates the fact that these kids have stayed the course, despite all the societal distractions and circumstantial hardships.
And lets just be honest; Cape Flats kids have a lot more issues to deal with than is fair.
Successfully avoiding being recruited into a gang is already an achievement, not to mention avoiding a stray bullet, or one intended for them.
Now, of course, celebrating these things is not a school’s job. But over the years we have been saying that school is (or should be) one of the very few safe spaces that our kids have.
It is where they are inspired to aspire to more than their circumstances dictate. There is already very little to celebrate as it is.
Even if they do haul themselves out of the ghetto and manage to make it in the adult world, life is hard these days. And they know it.
A matric ball is a relatively innocent way to send them off into a harsh world where reasons to celebrate are few and far between.
We should teach them consequence and to appreciate delayed gratification for good behaviour and hard work, over the entirety of high school.
Then we can all celebrate the fact that we have groomed a better human being, who deserves a matric ball.