I am aware of how my children’s behaviour comes about from modelling mine. I see it all the time, from when my son gets hurt and his sister “kisses it better” to the way they conduct themselves in general. More than what I ever say to them, my children learn from my own conduct. I am also aware that they do not only model my behaviour, but others who are a part of their lives. That’s why apart from loving our children and providing for their material needs as best as we can, leading by example is another responsibility we have towards children.
Considering the amount of time children spend at school, there is no doubt that teachers play a huge role in shaping the way children conduct themselves. Teaching is a noble profession, it has the potential to plant seeds in a child’s mind — seeds that could have an impact on them for the rest of their lives. It is under a teacher’s care that children’s minds are developed, opening up a world of possibilities. As such, I was most disgusted seeing a pantie, claimed to be Minister Motshekga’s, displayed at the recent Sadtu march.
For children watching this, what these teachers have planted is the idea that displaying underwear is a means of conflict resolution. Instead of conducting themselves in a manner befitting the status afforded to them by their profession, those teachers have showed our children that one should blatantly disrespect those you disagree with. Is that really how we want our children to resolve conflict or treat those they disagree with?
It is often said that the learners of today are ill-mannered, evidenced by the way adults fail to chastise them when necessary fearing rudeness or worse. But it is very necessary that adults acknowledge their part in the conduct displayed by the young and interrogate whether it is not their own behaviour being emulated.
Some may argue that not all who participated in the protest action were bearing panties, but it cannot be denied that by virtue of condoning it those who participated showed their approval of its use.
Furthermore in a country so riddled with sexual violence, displaying panties raises many questions. Why are women’s sexual parts, underwear, bodies and sex lives constantly brought up during comedy roasts, arguments and other disagreements with women? If we are to raise a generation that respects women and their bodies is the onus not on us to set the example — even in moments of conflict.
To my knowledge the mass action by Sadtu came about due to the refusal of the ministry to honour pay agreements struck in 2011. With the cost of living being what it currently is, I can understand the frustration of the teachers who might need the money to survive and perhaps get out of the debt some may have accumulated between then and now. But my empathy for their cause took a huge knock considering the way in which they went about it.
I am aware that it takes a community to raise a child and that not everyone in my children’s community will lead by example. But I do expect those who will someday teach my children to conduct themselves in a manner befitting the respect I assume they will someday expect from my children and me.