“Whatever the cost of our libraries, the price is cheap compared to that of an ignorant nation.” -Walter Cronkite
There was a recent uproar on social media (as usual) – it was a strange issue with weird reactions, even for 2018. Some government school dangerously low on its budget, cut out the cleaning staff and replaced them with students. So that meant that students would come in every day and mop the corridors, sweep their classrooms, and organize the school overall. Parents were fuming; children were panting, and onlookers wept and prayed for the safety and mental health of those poor kids. One question raised was how they could do their homework after a full day of cleaning and classes? Other points included topics such as “child abuse”, “unfair practice”, and “government duty towards its citizens”.
Now let’s take a step back and look at this issue from a Japanese perspective first. Most people are aware that Japanese schools don’t have janitors. The students clean their classrooms, hallways, toilets, and even prepare and serve lunch at their own cafeteria. I believe this feeling of ownership has many beneficial results. First and foremost, if you protect and clean your school, then you are its custodian and that feeling of care will transfer to your home, country, and company when you grow up. Secondly, if the students have someone pick up after them at school, then they will expect someone to pick up after them the rest of their lives. Third, an organized physical space assists in creating an organized mental space; and that organization is key to building a generation aware and strong enough to face the challenges of the 21st century.
How can you adjust the future? How do you prepare your country to compete against the great minds that emerge from developed goliaths such as Germany, Japan, the UK, India, China, and the USA? We’re knee deep into the age of information and if we don’t catch up we’ll be left behind to wander back into our tents and tend to goats as if the golden age of oil was just a dream. The digital transformation waits for no one, and there’s a huge load on the shoulders of the youth. Preparing them mentally is just the first step, before arming them with technical weapons that include coding, fintech, app development; which all need math, English, physics, and most importantly a proud sense of nationalism.
I’m still astounded that teachers are not the highest paid professionals. Teachers are essentially sculpting the future of our country yet remain the most underappreciated professionals. Sadly, in some cases we allow teachers with useless minds and ideas to transfer their garbage into our children’s minds. Shouldn’t we have extremely stringent training and evaluation processes for our teachers? Shouldn’t we have the best minds (and pay them the highest) to teach and raise our children? I think that would be more valuable and important an investment than even the security of our country.
So perhaps this small incident of having the students clean their school is the silver lining. Maybe it will open our eyes to the value of education. Maybe parents can rally and lobby for better quality educators, schools, and universities. Since education is a universal right, and Bahrain, as usual, was the beacon of Education in the 1970s and 1980s, we can try to regain our glory days? Countries from all over the GCC used to send delegations to learn from us and replicate our educational system. We used to train Bahraini’s all over the world and have teachers running the schools independently from the ministry of education. We were pioneers in extremely difficult times. I don’t see why we can’t be leaders again. Even in the toughest of times.