As Christmas is fast approaching, the commercial pressures on adults and children alike are immense. Despite the economic difficulties we are currently in, the advertising of “latest deals” and ‘must have’ is relentless. Last year, we were amazed at the number of students who had a Blackberry and or Smart Phone for Christmas (….and great to see them being used so constructively now!). What will be the big thing for this Christmas?
Whatever it is, I hope that everyone takes to time to reflect, not on material wants and needs, but on the needs of others who are less fortunate. Our students who returned from two weeks in South Africa, where they lived and worked within a Zulu community, were genuinely humbled by their experience. The report they submitted talked of the value that that Zulu community placed on education, even though they had very little resources themselves. They spoke of how close the entire community was in looking after and supporting each other, and accepting that their food was plain and simple, but enough to survive on. The luxuries that we will buy over the coming month, and waste in a lot of cases, would be beyond their comprehension.
The group took a small number of resources – a Kindle, some laptops, football kits, stationary, and torches – which were so gratefully received. Our students spent time explaining how they work, accessed e-books for the Zulu children and read to them. What a truly magnificent gift to give – that of “time” to educate someone less fortunate and, in doing so, provide them with tools to communicate with others around the world. These are experiences which will stay with our students, and the staff who accompanied them, for the rest of their lives. They didn’t have their phones with them; they couldn’t text or “Facebook” their friends. Did it matter? As one of them said, “The simple way of life in Mabandla was incredibly humbling, it highlighted how privileged our society is and how we should make the most of available opportunities”.
The Blackberry and smart phone that students have now will be forgotten very shortly and replaced with the latest gizmo and gadget. There are clearly times when material things just do not and should not matter – now is one such time for us to truly reflect.