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Off to school.

After having such a difficult time last week with one of our young boys (I’ll call him John), we decided that this week John would only come to Food for Thought to eat and not stay for the activities. His aggression and violence were becoming too much of a problem. We allowed him to stay after lunch on Tuesday for percussion and also on Thursday to spend time with our child psychologist Carla. Carla and I went to his school on Thursday morning to talk to the principal as we know that since his father was put behind bars, he nor his two older brothers have been attending.

To be honest I was very impressed with the school. The principal was very aware of the family’s situation and had even visited the home with the school’s social worker asking about their attendance. They showed us the three boys’ grades for the last three semesters. John’s older brothers are 14 and 15 years old. The 14-year-old seems to be managing quite well considering the situation. We know that the 15-year-old is a thief and sometimes comes home with money and buys the family things. I can understand why his mother turns a blind eye when he turns up with money. They don’t really have any, apart from the very small amount they get as a benefit.

The grades of the boys in the first two semesters were pretty good! Obviously, since they stopped showing up, their grades plummeted! In cases like these, it is so important for young people to be attending school. If they are not at school, they are on the streets, and it is a slippery slope on the streets. There is a law that states the kids must be in school for the family to receive the benefit. There is a possible legal avenue that we could take so that the mother is forced to send the boys to school at the risk of losing the benefit but that is the last option. The fact of the matter is that we want to stay onside with the family.

Even though there is only two weeks to go in school it is imperative that the boys are attending. If you don’t pass the grade then you have to repeat the year again. If these boys have to repeat the year then it means they are kept back with the younger students. It is embarrassing for them and the perfect incentive to not go to school! We organised with the principal and a couple of their teachers that they can make special efforts for all three of them to pass the grade. They would have to turn up and study and they could also sit a couple of exams early next year but with help they could all pass!

With that information in hand Carla and I went directly to the house of the family and presented the offer to the boys motivating them to get back to school for the last couple of weeks. John and the oldest brother were at home and they seemed to be ok with the plan. The only true way to know if they were into it was by waiting until the next day and finding out if they went to school or not!

It was a baby step in the right direction but yesterday all three of the boys turned up to school! I don’t agree with how the school system works in terms of labeling kids with grades and keeping them back if they don’t pass but, in this case, it is fundamental for the lives of these boys that they stay in school! Let’s see if we can support them in sticking it out for another couple of weeks!!!

We also saw some huge changes in John this week in his interactions with the other children. We have invited him back to participate fully in Food for Thought next week. Watch this space…