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Free education?

We as a nation are celebrating 50 years of free education. Earlier this month we commemorated the event with the unveiling of a plaque by officials of the Ministry of Education and it is definitely a topic which is on the lips of many. At the unveiling, the Minister of Education said that “[we should not] rest on our laurels, we have to redouble our efforts to ensure that we stay on the cutting edge …that we reach out to all persons who need some form of education…,”.

I definitely agree with the Minister on that one especially the very last part. I am one of thousands who benefitted from this free education and whose children are doing the same. However, while we indeed celebrate this feat there are those who have given some harsh criticism to the free education which they received.

Lots of persons within the deaf community said that this 50 year celebration has nothing to do with them as they haven’t seen the rewards of the free education which they received. While they admit that they have learnt “something”, at the end of the day it is meaningless as they have nothing to show for it and are unable to find decent jobs with decent pay for lack of qualifications. Qualifications which they didn’t acquire because they weren’t schooled in the subject area.

Now while some may argue, and they do argue this point, that people within the disabled community (deaf included) should be grateful for any kind of education they receive as their areas are specialised and the average teacher has to gain special training in order to properly administer a good and sound learning to them, I think that this kind of thinking not only leaves a lot to be desired but shows how flawed our thinking is as a people.

It is indeed a sad day when we who have benefitted from this free education; we who have been taught by some of the best, show not only ignorance but heartlessness to those who have had either little or no choice in the education they received. For many of us, even though we received this free education, we still had other choices available. Now of course everyone can’t afford to pay for private education, but those who feel the need to employ the services of persons privately if they feel that their free education isn’t cutting it indeed do so. Why? Because they can and because they have options.

What is the point of education if at the end of the day we can do nothing with it? Actually, has education taken place at all if we can do nothing with what we’ve been taught? Where do you go when you believe that the system has failed you and you are a young man or a young woman over the age of 18 and can’t find employment from the country who has been teaching you for most of your life?

Many of the deaf are unable to contribute to their households and are deemed as worthless and uneducated because of this fact. People see you dressed in a school uniform, riding on public transportation and come to the assumption that education is taking place and they expect to see the result. This is an unfair assumption because if we take a step back off the topic of the deaf community and look at our students in general, we would admit that some of them care not for this free education which they’re privy to. They waste our time and money by causing disruption in the classroom and show little or no regard for the sacrifices of the people who made this possible for an entire nation.

However, as I said before, this is not something which you can place on the shoulders of our deaf community. Many of them want to learn. They want to be able to attain higher education, be paid for their skills and be able to buy and own that which is available to any of us. That’s not unreasonable. None of us can even fathom the thought of going to school and leaving without any kind of certificate to our name.

When your choices are limited you have to take what you get. Unfair as that sounds that is a reality. While I’m grateful for my education, I share the hopelessness of those who just live their lives wishing that more could come of it. The deaf are a part of us. They are a part of this nation; but unfortunately for them their free education has come at a high and life changing cost.

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