By JESSICA ROWE
My eldest daughter tells me she hates school. As we negotiate getting her uniform on, after I’ve managed to find it buried in a scrunchy ball at the bottom of the laundry basket, I try to explain why going to school is important. ‘But why do I have to go…’ she says.
I’ve tried the, ‘the government says you have to, and Mummy will get into trouble if you don’t go…’ Unfortunately even the threat of the government sending her mum to jail doesn’t cut it. Perhaps I was taking it a bit too far – but my patience and calmness has been fast evaporating.
So I tried another tack this week. I told her how lucky she was to go to school, how lucky she was to have an education. I told her that there are many little girls in the world who would love to go to school but their governments won’t let them.
This made my five year old stop with the whys and she was silent. A miracle – to have a few moments of quiet. And then she said, ‘Does that mean they have to stay at home and do all the housework?’ ‘Uh huh’, I replied. ‘Imagine how it would feel to just do boring work and not have a chance to learn exciting and interesting things’. Well, that was enough to get her out the door.
And it also got me thinking, why is it that we are lucky enough to be able to offer our sons and daughters the power of education when so many children are not given that same chance? Simply because my daughter was born in Australia, she and her sister have extraordinary opportunities. Not because they deserve it, not because they are better than anyone else.
They have these choices simply because the planets aligned and these little souls were entrusted to me and their father and we just happen to be lucky enough to be born in the lucky country. Essentially, all kids are like mine and they have the right to live in a caring and compassionate society – safe from warfare and oppression. Kids like mine have the right to have a childhood. Kids like mine have the right to dream – and to be given the chance of a better life.
But as I wrestle with my daily grind and herding my girls out the door, there are too many families who don’t have the luxury of being able to revel in the mundane, routine and blissfulness of only worrying about whether you’ll be late for school. I get that we have many pressures already within our society that need fixing. It’s a crime there is homelessness, it’s wrong that too many kids go to school without breakfast.
We need to right those wrongs – but we also have to think about what sort of country we are. Surely we want to be a place that welcomes kids like mine, rather than become a place that is consumed by fear and ignorance. We are one of the richest nations on the planet – and with that comes a responsibility to share it around… Not to mention that if we’re not Indigenous Australians then we are all immigrants here.