For most parents living in a country like ours, a ‘first-world’ country, from the moment we learn we have conceived or even in the ‘planning’ to conceive, we have hopes and dreams for our unborn child.
When the child is born, be it a male child or female child, the contemplating commences; who does he/she look like, what will their disposition be, what colour eyes will they have and what will he/she be when they ‘grow-up?’
Sadly though, for parents of child in a developing country it is more likely fear which consumes them.
If the mother has the strength and the luck to survive pregnancy and childbirth there are so many uncertainties ahead. The World Health Organisation states that every day approximately 800 women die from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth and that 99% of all maternal deaths occur in developing countries. Encouragingly though, between 1990 and 2013, maternal mortality worldwide dropped by almost 50%.
In 2007, 9.2 million children born alive across the world died before their fifth birthday. Most of these children lived in developing countries and died from a disease or a combination of diseases that could easily have been prevented or treated.
If the child survives past 5, then there are the fears of violence through indoctrination; poverty; the possibility of life as a refugee; lack of access to education, neglect; child labour; child prostitution; child slavery and child trafficking.
In Australia, a boy born in 2010–2012 can expect to live to the age of 79.9 years and a girl would be expected to live to 84.3 years compared to 55.2 and 58.8 years in 1901–1910 respectively. In stark contrast for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population born in 2010–2012, life expectancy was estimated to be 10.6 years lower than that of the non-Indigenous population for males (69.1 years compared with 79.7) and 9.5 years for females (73.7 compared with 83.1). More here: http://www.aihw.gov.au/deaths/life-expectancy/#indigenous
I come back to my ‘first-world’ problems. My house-hold, I’m guessing, is not unlike many others with teenagers in Australia. It is chaotic, stressful, and just a bit untidy in the true sense of the word. The ether is thick with the uncertainty of so many things. This week it is the looming new school year and the current one is not yet concluded! We have had the stress of making subject choices going into year 12 based on little scientific rigor but more on how to minimise work effort and pressure to get the best possible result. We also have had the anxiety associated with the impending transition from primary school to secondary. I am ashamed to say that sometimes we can’t make a decision about what to have for dinner. We have too many choices!
Unless you are an exception to the rule, how many teenagers really knew/know what they aspired/aspire to ‘be?’ As a parent we want our children to be healthy, happy and to contribute in a meaningful way to society. We want them to have access to shelter, clean water, safe food, good, no; a great education and employment.
Did you really know what you wanted to be when you ‘grew-up? Some do. There’s a young woman who hails from Port Pirie and was educated in our excellent public school system who knew, categorically, from year 10 that she most definitely wanted to be an embryologist, she is living her dream.
Another, a gentleman; an expert and leader in his field, who knew from age 4; that absolutely, most definitely he was going to be a fire-fighter. He is. Oh to be so self-assured.
I certainly was not so confident! At one point I wanted to be a ‘fishing inspector’ and at another I wanted to have a career in nursing. Two career options, poles apart! Almost on the cusp of my 5th decade on this planet and only now do I really know who, not what, I aspire to be.
So how do I, indeed how does any parent, advise or guide their child about their future? Do we push for careers with status or do we concede money and a materialistic life is not as important as a contented one?
There are plenty of people well qualified to provide advice. There are student counsellors, life coaches, mentors, family and a stranger on the street may offer the most profound advice of all.
Last week it was my pleasure to be a guest at the John Pirie Secondary School’s Presentation evening. As a former student, (back then it was known as Port Pirie High School) I do have a soft-spot for this institution.
The night opened with a spine tingling rendition of our National Anthem. Not just the first verse and chorus but the second verse too. As an aside, you should know I struggle with the words “for those who've come across the seas we've boundless plains to share” when we, as a rich nation, treat asylum seekers in such an inhumane way.
The diversity of the student population is as colourful and vibrant today as it was in the 1980’s. The presentations were held in the bursting local theatre, the Keith Michell Theatre. The theatre was named after Emmy Award-winner actor Keith Michell. Mr Michell spent his formative years in Warnertown and is best known for portraying King Henry VIII.
The night of celebration acknowledged academic excellence, sporting excellent, excellence in the arts, music, leadership, teamwork and all-round talent.
Up on the stage and upon the receipt of the certificates, scholarships and other awards there were smiles. Some smiles were bashful and some not so. Some students, who were selected for recognition for their efforts, were absent on the evening as their names were read out. I wondered why those students weren’t with their peers. I hoped they celebrated their successes in some other way.
The firm handshakes of those receiving their accolades were testament to the confidence and their respect for those, mostly teaching staff, presenting said awards. The school community didn’t just recognise their student cohort but also paid special tribute to the staff and the parents who gave time freely to this healthy school community.
Who or what has motivated these individuals? Has it been sound advice, a struggle to overcome adversity or a burning personal ambition? Regardless of the reason, it really is up to the individual to ultimately be the master of their own destiny. The best we can do as participants in our community is to provide a nurturing environment for learning and a soft place to fall when things don’t go to plan.
As I sat in the audience I reflected on my own secondary school years and my teachers. I remembered two of my year 12 teachers in particular. One who inspired me, actually it wasn’t inspiration so much as them having confidence in me to succeed and the other who gave me extra responsibilities and mentored me as I persisted with challenges, both personal and academic. I have respect and admiration for both of those fine educators.
In closing the evening of celebrations, Principal Mr Roger Nottage spoke of a vision. Indeed a partnership of educators, the ‘Pirie Partnership’ has a vision for all. They aspire to develop certain qualities in our young people and in our community. It is said that that necessity is the mother of invention. The partnership has designed an innovative program which aims to support our youth and our community in these challenging times.
In speaking about the program, four key words rang out; respect, persistence, confidence and responsibility. Fine traits indeed!
How do we come to learn those qualities? Whilst those traits may be inherent in some they are often learned and more often than not learned through someone leading and setting an example.
I believe that these traits and behaviours do underpin the actions of our youth and our broader community. I also believe in practicing and in modelling these traits they can enable us to achieve success in learning and in life. Success really is relative.
You may not aspire to be like me, nor I like you, but with respect, persistence, confidence and responsibility success, in all aspects of your life, will be the reward.
Note: Image supplied courtesy of John Pirie Secondary School. Used with permission.