My name is Mary. I’m forty years old, and I live in Lesotho with my two children, Jenny and Sara. I love my kids so much because they are all I have. I don’t have anyone else apart from them. Their father passed away shortly after I gave birth to Sara. It wasn’t easy for me to take care of the kids alone, but I did my best and now I’m used to it.
I have always refused to conform to societal norms, even when it came to education. This is because I never attended school, and I lived a wonderful, happy life despite my lack of education. I firmly believed that my children could learn more from life experiences than from textbooks and classrooms.
Yet Jenny and Sara always wanted to go to school because they saw other kids going to school. They would sometimes ask me why they were not going to school, and I would tell them that school was not that important and that those kids were just wasting their time. For more than five years, they stayed at home without going to school. Sometimes Jenny would go to school without me knowing; she would follow our neighbor’s children to school and furtively come home after class because she knew I would yell at her.
When Jenny and Sara reached school age, I made a conscious decision not to enroll them in formal education. I felt that it would only limit their potential and suppress their creativity. Instead, I encouraged them to explore the world around them, fostering their curiosity and letting them learn at their own pace.
We went on amazing journeys together, exploring different parts of the world and creating unforgettable memories. During our travels, we experienced vibrant cultures. We walked hand in hand through the old streets of Egypt. We went to Memphis to see the pyramids that we had so often heard about and there we saw and admired beautiful buildings that told stories of the past. On another memorable trip, we went to the city of Kyoto, Japan where we wandered through the serene gardens of the Kinkaku-ji temple. We experienced incredible moments in Japanese museums, standing together in front of amazing artworks, appreciating their beauty and thinking about what they meant. We also did exciting things like hiking through stunning landscapes, conquering tough trails that rewarded us with breathtaking views.
We also took part in local celebrations such as festivals and traditional weddings full of dancing and laughing, and we enjoyed peaceful gardens, where we were free from disturbances. Whether we were trying new and exotic foods, savoring the rich flavors at the street market, eating fried plantains and boiled fish with sauce, or peacefully watching the sunset from a sandy beach, the experience brought us closer and created a treasure trove of shared adventures. I believed that exposing them to real-life experiences would give them a well-rounded education.
My children enjoyed the kind of life they were living because they were always at home just having fun playing with toys and other things they never experienced at school. They were very happy without knowing that I was destroying their future.
However, as time passed, I started to see the consequences of my decision. Jenny and Sara had a hard time learning basic reading, writing, and math skills. They didn’t have the foundation that formal education provides, and it became more and more clear that I had let them down.
My close friend Martha and my older sister Judith approached me one day and expressed their concerns. They urged me to reconsider my decision to not enroll my children in school. They passionately stressed the significance of education in shaping a child’s future, emphasizing its pivotal role in providing them with countless opportunities to thrive and succeed. They told me about the problems my children would face when they grew up—for instance, they wouldn’t be able to support themselves, being unable to secure good jobs. Deep inside, I knew they were right, but I was stubborn and scared to admit my mistake, so I didn’t take any action.
When I thought about it, I realized that I had been putting my own ideas before my children’s well-being. I thought that not having an education would go well for my children but it wasn’t like that. It ended up being a bad thing for them. It made me realize my mistake. Sadly, I had to accept that I was wrong and enroll Jenny and Sara in a school in Lesotho, even though it was hard for me to do.
Jenny and Sara found it extremely difficult to adapt. As time went on, it became clear that they were falling behind the other kids in their schoolwork. They weren’t able to catch up because they were not able to do math or read or even write. In most of the exams they came last because they were unable to solve even the simplest math problems. One day I asked them to divide twenty five by five, and they told me the answer was three. Their teachers always complained about them misspelling words when they wrote essays. They weren’t even able to spell the word language. They also felt left out and didn’t have the chance to socialize with their classmates, which was important for their growth. My bad decision was negatively affecting their lives, and I had to face the consequences.
Now, when I think about what I did wrong, I feel really sorry. I’ve learned the hard way that education is a priceless gift we give our children. Even though I slowed down Jenny and Sara’s progress, I am determined to fix it. I will stand up for Jenny and Sara, supporting their education and helping them catch up on what I overlooked.
14 July, 2023