Thursday, November 17, 2005

Leaving Home 

My son goes to a lovely school in the small suburb of Cape Town that we live in. My daughter will go there next year. It is a fee paying school, so all the parents are relatively well-off, and trying to buy the best all round education for their kids. The parents feel that on balance, the school is the best place for their kids. It’s local, they know it, and it is an easy and reassuring option at the moment.

The problem with this school is that the future of the high school is uncertain. At the moment, most parents seem to move their kids to other schools where the sporting teams are stronger, or the school is more established. This usually means a longer commute in the morning to drop kids off, and brings the usual problems of displacement and unfamiliarity to start with, but is seen as the better long term option. The sporting facilities, and the public success of the sports teams are often the big issue.

There are a lot of white liberals who live in SA who are not quite sure that things are working out the way they expected. So far nothing much has changed for the white middle class. They are still worried, though, about the signs that the ANC is tending towards a “with us or against us” mentality, and the fact that everything still comes down to race. Also that Mbeki is more concerned about how his policies look to the other black leaders in Africa than he is about how they look to the first world leaders that we associate with – hence the policies (or lack of them) on Zimbabwe. Still, South Africa seems, on balance, the best place to be – they know it, and it’s the easy and reassuring option at the moment.

The problem is that the future is uncertain. Gradually people are moving away – to Sydney, London or Auckland. Thie means displacement, unfamiliarity, and long trips to visit friends and relatives, but increasing numbers are seeing it as the better long term option. The the security and the economy are often the big issues.

At the moment, we are tying these two things together. Where do we send the kids for school? Well, there are broadly 3 options: government schools, which are currently pretty good, but what about the future; private schools, which are excellent but expensive and elitist; and the international school, which is good but too small. So. What if we go back to the UK? Then we will want the kids to have been at the international school. But if we are staying here it may not be the best thing. So a discussion about schools swerves towards a race / class discussion via the more integrated government schools, then ends up becoming a spot of soul searching about long term residency. More South African style conundrums.

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