Praising papers

“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”  HYPERLINK "" Albert Einstein
This year I eagerly waited for the budget speech on education.
The mother in me was expecting reforms that would change the way my child would be educated while the citizen in me was hoping for a fairer way of distributing the country’s wealth. Yet, hearing the actual measures and figures made me feel that there are still limited seats at the table. Despite my aspirations, my country still has a long way to go.
Months ago, I met Sheila. At 23 she had 2 toddlers and was expecting her third child. One thing leading to another she started telling me how, at the age of 15 she had to drop out of school. Basically, her parents could not fund her studies further and although she attended a star school, although she had passed all exams with flying colors, she had no choice but to swap her books and pens for a job that would put food on the family table. Deep inside I know that if she had been born in the ‘right’ family, her fate would have been different. I was touched because this story could have been mine too but also because this is not the type of story we should hear in Mauritius in 2015.
When I see the budget channeled each year to fund the studies of our so called elite composed of 50 students, while some others do not have the funds to even complete their secondary education, I cannot help but think that something is wrong in paradise. The injustice is furthered for those who do not have the potential to do what we call white collar jobs.
Our society seems to scream that you are a failure if you do not have a picture of you with a robe and a mortar-board cap in the living room. So we hustle and strive to get that picture. Many however, have to leave their dream of a six-figure job at the university gate. Measures have been taken to reduce the unemployment rate amongst the jobless graduates. Nevertheless, in this pool of young Mauritian, how many will be ready to go for polytechnic careers in construction, or in any other form of manual work? How many parents will think their son or daughter has succeeded in life if he is a cook, or a brick layer?
If we understand the basis of supply and demand, we should understand that the country will only be able to offer jobs where there are demands and the demand is not in the fields that have been traditionally eulogized. Yet, adverts on our radios, in our papers are still chanting the merits of professions like lawyers, doctors or accountants. The message it seems to convey is; get a corporate, white collar job, the wife, the house, the car, the watch that match, and you will be happy. In reality we know, some white collar professionals have become perfect candidates for burnout. They dream, eyes wide open, of leaving a corporate job to embark in a passion that will make the child in them proud.
Somewhere down the line, we got it all wrong. We gauge our superiority from our certificates, our jobs, our status or simply from being “the wife of”! We have become experts at turning man into Gods. We hail people because they wear suits, because they have business cards bearing meaningless acronyms. Yet we aren’t capable of showing basic respect to the person who opens our doors in banks, cooks our meal or bathes our children!
Our walls are bedecked with certificates, people call us Sir, Madam and we measure life, happiness and personal value by the number of miles we have on our frequent flyer cards.
On the other side, how many of us have started house building projects, hired so called “professionals”, only to unearth further stories to add to the urban tale of construction workers’ inefficacy? We “trust” people to build our house, and end up toeing behind them, eyeing their every single move, because, there are so few of them we feel we can trust.
Perhaps in our urge to conjure the fate of our ancestors, who came to this new land as labourers or slaves, we want to leave behind all professions that denote a form of struggle. In the process however aren’t we guilty of overvaluing certain professions? We invest in useless certificates; praise our children for all the wrong reasons, teach our children to look down on certain professions.
I have been raised to value education, but now that I am old enough to think on my own, I can realise that it’s only a tool. Basically, I only perfected a skill I had. Similarly, someone who works as seamstress, cook, mechanic or carpenter has invested time, sweat and efforts to build his skill. You would be surprised how many hours it takes for a mechanic to perfect his art. I say art because when I’m stuck on the road with a flat tyre, I am happy somebody can come, work magic and repair whatever needs to be repaired.
When we turn to the so called developed country, we can see the crisis they face in recruiting semi skilled workers. Jobs on demand do not require any of the mysterious acronyms I mentioned before but they require perfecting a skill, they require an investment, efforts and endless hours of work. In a near future we are poised to face the same situation. Hence, how come are we still channeling funds in the wrong ways?
I may be preaching to the choir. We all know education is the best gift we can give our children.  I can do a job I love because I had the choice. This choice came from working hard at school. But for me, education should also praise the fish that cannot climb a tree but can swim in its own element. I hope for a motherland that will value the skills of all its children equally and where all resources will be equally distributed. A motherland that will value the things we cannot learn on a school bench. It is time we realize that didactic learning only will not arm our children with the resilience they will need to face life’s challenges.
No matter what skills a child may have, we should be able to tell him that he is useful and has worth. No budgetary measure for education can work unless and until we change the way we view certain professions. Unless, we teach our children that the persons behind the meals we eat are worthy and valuable too.
As the speech ended, I only wished that the persons behind would go back to the drawing board. I sat down waiting for two miracles; hoping for a fairer sharing of the dimes destined for education and hoping that those who count will see that formal education is a door, but it’s not the only one.