The Basic Foundations for a Culture of Schooling

May 12, 2015 - 8:56am

Poverty is a persistent problem responsible for poor attendance of students from poor socio-economic backgrounds. Prince Albert has shown to be an area having a significant proportion of the population categorized as ‘poor’, lacking the basic needs of suitable housing and food. Housing and food are basic needs and the failure to meet these needs are breeding grounds for addictions, abuse, crime, poor health, and low levels of education. What ensues is a vicious cycle of striving to survive.

 A common thread that runs through discussions at Community Coalition meetings and staff meetings is how to reduce poverty and keep students in educational programs. The issue of poverty is serious enough to be addressed at the provincial level in the latest attempt at a ‘Poverty Reduction Strategy.’

Students in the school system and adults in upgrading programs face the dilemma of concurrently juggling uplifting themselves through education and trying to survive.  There are many issues that can spiral into a labyrinth of poverty that people find themselves in that gravely affect their chances of success even through education. A large number of people are living in sub-standard housing conditions infested by black mold that in turn pose health problems. 

Many live in overcrowded conditions to accommodate family and friends who would otherwise be homeless. Many people couch surf and even sleep outdoors in warmer temperatures. In addition, there isn’t enough money for food to sustain families from month to month. Many students go hungry during the day as they sit through their lessons.

The high absenteeism in programs and schools can be explained by poor sleep, poor nutrition, illnesses arising from poor housing conditions, and a subsequent disconnect with the schooling experience. Children experience the struggles parents feel through seeing their parents struggle on a daily basis. 

They sense little hope in institutions that portend to make their lives better. The harder it is to secure the basic needs, the easier it is for people to look for ways to ease their pain, resorting to alcohol and drugs, and upheaval in the home. It becomes a vicious cycle all in the name of survival. Again, children are in the midst of this predicament and if modeling is primary to parenting, then children are modeled on what it takes to survive.

The ensuing result is a loss of a culture of schooling, the basic chances for better outcomes for most students in life. There are many initiatives that are being continually tried and tested in schools and adult educational institutions to keep students in school, but as long as fundamental changes to socio-economic conditions of housing and sustenance are absent, all other initiatives will see temporary and unstable improvements.

The starting point is to make possible decent, low-cost housing for all in need.  Housing is necessary as an anchor to start feeling a sense of self-worth. In addition, the value of meal programs in schools is a way to meet a basic need while students are in school. It’s a start to building a foundation for a culture of schooling. Education should always be the focus that needs to be built on pillars of decent and stable housing and sustenance through food programs.

Once we have the basic foundation for children to start developing a culture of schooling, we need to then focus on how to instill in them a culture of education and learning, and that is another important area that needs to be covered, and uncovered.

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