Shall we celebrate with them or tear up their diplomas too?


As the debate about Burundian high school students who ripped up their school uniforms heats up on social media and wastes the ink of the Education Minister’s pen, I found myself in an interesting discussion in a bus between students….who were wearing sliced uniforms too. Their discussion and new style got me thinking.

“I won’t remove the clothes till dad comes back home. He has to see that I finished high school”, proudly shouted one of the crew. With shinning faces, smiles on their mouth and joy that I could feel by only sitting beside them, the “innocent teens” were just happy. They did not mind the astonished eyes of passengers gazing at them as if they had just landed from Jupiter. I was happy to sit with them, listen to their conversation; watch their videos… and revisit some of my best high school memories. I wish the trip had been longer but…

 Give them a name and hang them

Several comments from sweet to the most bitter have been posted. Some people even suggested to severely punish them to discourage such “misconduct”. The Ministry of Education is obviously also ready to take off their hands their chance to wave their diplomas in the airI’m not there to say whether their celebration was the best or has gone off “limits”. Alike a striker who takes off his jersey after scoring a last minute goal, the latter ripped up their clothes as a sign of victory marking the end of their high school education. But will the Ministry let them lift up their trophy?

As we are busy casting stones at them for having weirdly celebrated their one moment of glory, aren’t we missing an opportunity to ask real questions? Does our education, our tradition tell us how to enjoy our rare happy moments? When do we know that we are crossing the line or not? How should our young brothers and sisters behave in front of their smart phones’ screens in this social media boom era? And most importantly when should the Ministry jump in to regulate students’ ceremonies out of school, which obviously seems to be a parents’ affair? 

A missing discussion around the fire

A lot has been said. But, I wonder how many parents have taken time to discuss with their kids about the behaviour they should adopt in this technology controlled world. The kind of deep, open and soft conversation the parents would take/lead to let their children feel free to express their views. The kind of conversation that young people miss today because parents do not have time to talk to their sons and daughters any longer. Or maybe do they do so through WhatsApp.

How could these students dare rip off their uniforms after high school while there is a poor brother or sister somewhere who needs them?” do critics say. I get the point. But again, this is the kind of discussion that children and parents ought to have around the fire- basic education. This is the kind of model parents have to set too. Otherwise, why should we expect our children to think about the poor while they grew up seeing their housemaids or neighbours trashing food leftovers every day while there are hungry people outside the house?

Let’s not spoil our time and energy attracting attention on petty things, telling what students should do and should not when in fact we cannot even exactly determine the limits. I think time has come to discuss core issues pertaining to the role of parents, educators and students themselves with regards to our culture and family education in this technologically developing world. 


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