So, this morning’s lecture was all about poverty. Whilst looking at the reading prior to the lecture, it provoked feelings of nervousness but also excitement to a point. One of my favourite things to do is to ask questions and find out what other people’s opinions are relating to topics which I feel strongly about; poverty is one of these topics.
I found the reading for this week to be really interesting; not because I learnt anything new but because I had one of those big moments where something just clicks into place and makes sense. One of the things to read for this week was a report entitled “The Roles We Play”. This came with my questions for me, not because I don’t understand the situations these people face, rather because I understand only too well.
It totally bewilders me as to why it is the people who have nothing that give the most to their community. The people who understand what it is like to suffer; to struggle; to have nothing, are often the first to stand up and look to be the light to someone else’s darkness. People, as a whole, like to attach labels onto one another. As a society, we are very good at judging people when we have very little information on the person and their situation. These labels and judgements have the tendency to be negative. When we hear about people not having enough money to live, the automatic assumption is that they live on the state, they’re lazy or they just don’t work hard enough to change their life but what about the people who work, the ones who try their best to make the best life that they can for their families? Where do they fit into this broken image that society has?
During the lecture today we looked at a role-play involving two fourteen year old girls – Emily and Kylie-Ann – who had very different experiences of childhood. Emily was a child who appears to have had a loving, stable comfortable upbringing with parents who, although may put her under pressure, want what’s best for her. The family have multiple streams of income flowing into the home providing a degree of financial stability. Kylie-Ann on the other hand, lives with her grandmother in a tower block. The household relies on benefits to be able to survive and when she needs new clothes or shoes, Kylie-Ann’s Gran has to rely on payday loans.
The girls school lives are also very different. Emily attends the school that both her parents has also attended. She is very rarely absent but even when she is, her parents request any work she misses to be sent home. She is very ambitious and aims to study medicine at the university of St Andrews. Although her parents are encouraging regarding her education, they put pressure on Emily to be the best.
Kylie-Ann seems to have had a very different experience. Her Gran allows her to skip school and isn’t encouraging towards her education. Although she doesn’t want to live on benefits for the rest of her life, she doesn’t know what she wants to do with her life.
Whilst learning more about the girls, I could think of many situations in my own life and in the lives of other people I know that has similarities to the stories. I find it easy to relate to the instability in Kylie-Ann’s life.
From a young age, school was a stable place for me. The one place I could rely on to be consistently the same. When I found life difficult I would throw myself into school work, maths in particular. I didn’t see it at the time but reflecting now, I can see that my love of maths that I developed as an eight year old, was my way of dealing with the uncertainty in other areas of my life.
It would have been easier for my life to take the same path as Kylie-Ann’s. However, my life was influenced massively by the teachers I had in school. I was always encouraged to be the best version of myself that I could be academically. Although I lacked the confidence in myself as a person, I had a great deal of confidence in my academic ability as a child which provided the baseline I needed to break the vicious cycle that I was trapped in.
Issues such as poverty and social injustice have the ability to either throw a child headfirst into their education in order the better their lives or to send a child to follow the path that society has prepared for them because of their upbringing. Although teachers may not be able to transform the lives of the children in the class, they have the ability to encourage every child to be the best they can be and to build lives that they are happy to lead.

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