Friday, 27 November 2015
WHEN CHILDREN WERE STILL CHILDREN
A SKETCH FROM THE LIFE OF STES DE NECKER
Stes de Necker
One of the most tragic consequences of our so-called modern society is the fact that most of today’s youngsters have never learned how to play.
Today, every spare moment is spend chatting and texting on Blackberries, I-phones, Facebook, Twitter and what else. Grade 1 children are today learning what we learned in high school fifty years ago. It’s all about performance. Performance in the classroom, performance on cultural level and performance on the sports field.
I grew up on a farm and usually there were never enough hours in a day or on weekends and not even holidays to do everything we wanted to do. Together with my farm friends, children of the farm workers, we went horse riding, donkey riding, building rafts to sail on the dam, catapult shooting, played marbles, making clay ‘sculptures’ and playing Tarzan. The school holidays were all too short, not to speak about weekends.
Those wicked Mondays. After a weekend it was back to boarding school. Back to the deadly routine of getting up, breakfast, school, lunch, study, sports, dinner, study, bedtime. And all that while the desperate longing back to the farm and your playmates never leave you for one moment.
If anyone were to ask me today what my marks in primary school were, I will not be able to remember it to save my life!
Because it was not important!
Of interest was to grow up a normal human being. To learn through play. To learn mutual respect and acceptance with your friends of different colour. To learn respect for your elders. To learn why dad has given you the hiding of your life because you called “Outa Jan” by his first name and not “outa” out of respect for his age and respect for his position as foreman on the farm.
To learn about nature and to be able to figure out for yourself if there was rain on its way; to learn how to roast corn on the cob, to drink fresh “separator milk”, and to know the smell of a freshly picked tomato.
And then the greatest lessons of all, to learn that milk comes from cows and not from a bottle in the supermarket; that maize meal comes from maize that must first be planted and harvested. That butter comes from the cream that was separated from the milk and that cold butter will definitely crumple your bread if you haven’t warmed it up first.
That was learning. Not all this elaborate academic horseshit our children are being fed today. Why must little Johnny or Mary already understand Newton's laws in grade one? What does it matter whether they are already understand Physics and Applied Mathematics at that age? They have their whole life ahead of them to learn all that.
But now it seems that as much as possible must as quickly as possible be drilled into them. One would swear that someone is afraid the poor little things may die before they have learned all this!
I remember so well when I was in grade 5, we had to write an English essay about anything interesting that we have done or experienced the previous weekend. How could I help but write about the farm.
On the particular Saturday, a heavy thunderstorm broke on the farm. My dad’s sheep were in the pasture so I decided to bring them into the shed for safety.
So, the topic of my essay was “The Sheep and the Rain”
However, bear in mind that language and spelling was never one of my strong points. In those days we had to learn "dictation", instead of what is now called, spelling.
The second paragraph of my essay I will never forget. It went like this:
"I went to bring the sheep to the kraal (shed). But every time I keer (turn back the sheep) them here, the wetherlight (lightning) strikes there. And when I keer them there, the wetherlight strikes here."
A day later, when the teacher handed back my essay book she wrote at the bottom of my literary masterpiece: "For your story you get ten out of ten. But for English only half a point, because this time you did not spell sheep with a "j" again!
Those were the days when children were still growing up normally.
When children were still children.