Saturday, 24 March 2012

Have I wasted my education?

This week was a strange week.

I had to deal with bullying at school.

My application for a research grant was rejected. I was not one of the 17% of applicants deemed good enough.

My son ran his school cross-country.

This morning we were told - as if we did not already know - Nursery workers so illiterate they struggle to read stories aloud.

It was not a difficult choice for me to remain at home. I was short-listed for a post-doctoral fellowship when my son was a few weeks old. On my way to the interview I knew that wasn't what I really wanted to do.

Over the next few years I had looked at nurseries and childminders to see if I could have my son away for a day or two every week so I could return to writing and publishing and then academic work.

But it became clear to me that while nursery staff and childminders could keep my child safe, they are not going to give him the type of intellectual stimuli that he deserves.

Why would I leave my precious son - child of a late marriage - to the care of people who are much less educated than I am?

Then my husband's long illness, my son's 'special education needs' and a successful home-run business meant the return to academia did not happen, till now.

Bullying at school. In our household we tend to "reason together". So my son cannot understand why one classmate keeps hitting him.

It's always done when no one is looking.

My son reported that the bully said he thinks "it is funny" to hit, presumably to see how my son and others react to the hitting.

I wonder if this bully has ever been smacked. He spent much of his young life in a day nursery as both his parents worked.

He now spends most of his time at school collecting "red points" and detention.

But his mother insists that if he really did bully my son, surely the teachers would have told her. Perhaps it is my son who is over-sensitive. Perhaps my son is the one who has to learn to handle teasing. Implicitly I am the over-protective mother.

Her boy clearly does not understand that hitting people and taunting them with unkind and untrue remarks cause hurt.

Now that he's been told to stay away from my son he's taken to attacking another boy.

Is there something in spending time in a nursery that causes a child to turn to aggression?

Not getting my research grant was a big disappointment. I could put it down to not returning to academia much earlier.

But looking at the total context of my family life, I think it is still the right choice to have stayed home to nurture my son.

What good is it for me to be a professor by now if the headmaster keeps calling me in to school to report my son's bad behaviour?

Better known for his academic and musical prowess and clearly not a natural sportsman he did very well in his cross-country (beating the bully and another athlete by a very long way).

My son is happy, except when this bully messes him up. Now that he is older he is better able to cope with his bullying. One day, I'm afraid, he might hit the bully.

That would only be construed as self-defence, I think.

He can't wait to go to the next school so that he does not have to see this bully again.

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Hijacking International Women's Day

This was the letter I sent to Straits Times Forum last Monday:
I see it is becoming “cool” to celebrate International Women’s Day.

The UN theme for International Women’s Day 2012 is “Empower Rural Women – End Hunger and Poverty”. In Singapore I see advertisements admonishing readers to “come pamper yourself”.

In the Forum pages I see men and women still seem unhappy or unsure about giving their live-in maids a weekly day off.

My question then is, “What have we done on IWD to empower the maids in our households, the local and foreign women in Singapore suffering violence and indignity, and women and children around the world suffering violence, hunger and poverty?”

What was the last thing we did to help improve the life of one woman – sister, neighbour, friend – near us?

Celebrate IWD by all means but please do not hijack it for commercial gains.
I noticed from Facebook posts that businesses have jumped on the IWD bandwagon.

To put it mildly, I was incensed.

After sending this letter I checked some of her posts again and realized that an IWD event was actually run by Medicorp. Is that why they refused to publish my very concise letter?

The local Women's Society where I was (voluntary) Secretary on the Management Committee for several years run annual IWD events. Yes, we do offer "pampering sessions", but these were offered for the mental and physical well-being of women who are often in such dire circumstances.

We screen films and host photographic exhibitions that celebrate the lives of women, and champion especially the cause of women facing domestic violence (from both male and female partners, yes). We organize events to encourage women entrepreneurs and highlight the achievements of young women within our local community.

But we have never tried to make money by saying, "Come pamper yourself." Full stop.

Come have an expensive dinner, it's International Women's Day.

Come buy a pair of expensive shoes, it's International Women's Day.

Come spend the day in our wonderful lovely spa, it's International Women's Day.

Because you are worth it, and all that.

If Singaporeans - men and women - really care for women, then start caring for the women you know right next to you. Do something not only on IWD but every day to empower the woman - young, old, able, disabled, married, single - in your midst.

Is how I feel. Please share my rant.