BACK when I was a teenager, a day off school meant I was sick. On the rare occasion that I was with mum when she had to run some errands, I got the shock of my life.
Instead of the harried mayhem I was used to, the shops were a foreign world of calm and subdued adults, interspersed with a screaming toddler or two trapped in a pram.
As an adult, my flexible work schedule allows me to be at the shops during the week but these days, it is hard to tell a weekday from the weekend. There are school-aged kids everywhere. By all appearances, the Gold Coast has a serious truancy problem.
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As a concerned citizen, I’ve tried to do my part to help.
I’ve mastered the passive aggressive stare and I’ve dished out more than a few disappointed headshakes in these students’ direction, but I don’t think I intimidate them too much.
I even take my megaphone along with me to try and scare them back to school – the fact that he is two and spouting indecipherable babble doesn’t seem to be working in my favour though.
After reading the news this week about our Prime Minister’s efforts to rein in truant kids in the Northern Territory, I had a bit of fun imagining him pushing his weight around the streets of the Gold Coast.
First, I wondered if they would even recognize him as the Prime Minister?
Then, I wondered if they would have enough respect to care about the opinion of such a person in authority – let alone change their ways because of it?
Finally, I wondered if the prime minister would in fact be the one with egg on his face when the said students turned around and validated their absence from school.
It is next to impossible to determine the truancy rates at Gold Coast schools but some school admin staff estimate up to 1 in 5 students wag school on any given day.
On the other hand, there is now unprecedented flexibility in school hours, making it hard for outsiders to track who is legitimate and who is not.
Back in my day, school was a clear cut 9am – 3pm. Now, schools accommodate athletic training, fast-tracked university classes and all sorts of individualized programs and traineeships. I can only imagine the timetabling nightmare that would be to figure out!
While there needs to be more accountability and we need to prioritise education, I can’t imagine guilting and shaming is going to be very effective in this day and age – in Arnhem Land or on the Gold Coast. It might be fun to watch Abbott try though.
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