A caged bird doesn’t only seek to be freed from its cage, it also thirsts for autonomy to be able to decide and act independently within its cage.
I’m a caged bird and school is my cage. My cage has authority as paving and programming as anchors. It’s these steel bars that enclose my mind, build my mind and protect my body from scavengers in the harsh outside world. It’s in the bluntness of the teachers that my heart aches because yet another learner’s dream has been put to rest. It’s the slippery paving that trips and sometimes catches the inconsistency and favouritism of the one’s in authority. Within these walls I’m just a pawn.
There are days whereby school feels like a high security prison; strict timetables, arranged seats and definitely no disobedience is permitted. Whereby art, like graffiti on desks, toilet walls and even classwork books is regarded as taboo. Freedom of expression mainly; how long she wants her dress, how tucked in he wants his shirt and how they’re supposed to tie their hair is enforced by the schools’ Code of Conduct. The romanticised collection of merits as accolades even though they’re only paper value in the real world and paper is only valuable when its currency. Constantly controlled, bound, restrained and caged. How I once thought school was a place of self-discovery.
For in these walls I’ve struggled. That annoying tap I do on the Casio button as my mind scrapes through the last bit of math I can remember. Those constant toilet errands as either sob sessions or Ted Talks telling myself to pull it all together. The intimacy I share with my classroom walls on days whereby I struggle to hold back my tears due to an insult sent my way or as the memory box on days whereby I don’t know an answer and stare long enough to remember and sometimes days where I daydream and it practically becomes my canvas.
Yet still these walls nurture and protect me. It is where daily meals of wisdom and information are pumped right in the depths of my stomach. “Nifundela ulibala” (Reading or studying to forget) they claim, but it’s in the utterance of their voice and the movement of their hands across the chalkboard that holds command like a soothing lullaby and I forget the meaning of a noun.
Like mothers, these walls understand as they send out echoes whenever I scream out for help, they feel me, they hear me and they recognise me.
For in these walls I’ve been happy. That high mark I get after writing a class test I stressed about all week. Those awkward grins shared in between glances with former classmates as I pass through the corridors. The friendships shared either because we have a common appreciation of food, drool over the same boy band or have the same understanding of memes. These walls have presented opportunities down my way whether it be joining the sports team, the debating society, the choir, entering a Math Olympiad or a writing competition, being part of the RCL and even being the classroom’s very own qualified chalkboard wiper.
Even though life apparently gets tougher after high school I want so much to get out of school. For so long I’ve felt so out of place, like a bird that can’t find its way home. I mean who sends a child to school? I can already see the lock on this cage unhinged.
For my first steps I won’t be running, I’ll walk to gather the essence of liberty, to feel my feet hit the ground and to finally feel connected, connected to the world. Where self-expression is exalted and children’s dreams are appreciated. To finally be me without the constant alterations.
Freedom out of school must definitely taste like honey and smell like roses, does it not?
Tell us: Do you think life out of school means more freedom? Why?