I learned from writer Carol Shields that she regularly read the obituaries in the newspapers because, she said, "Each obituary is a short story about the person who died". I remembered this statement the day I read an obituary in the Globe & Mail that both moved and shocked me.
Mary Manko Haskett, who had died at 98, was described as the last survivor of
This article was prompted by my recognition that, no matter how many years have passed since I attended public school, I continue to feel that a new year begins on the day after Labour Day. Thankfully, I no longer have to shop for school supplies during the dog days of August, but each year, when I see the ads for these supplies, I remember the combination of excitement and dread of going into a new grade at school. Of course, I am not the only non-student to think about schooling at this time of year. The Dominion Institute is concerned that a recent survey reveals that only half of Canadians can name our first Prime Minister, and only 16% can name the Fathers of Confederation.
I can understand the Institute's concern; I can also remember how mind-numbing it was to memorize lists of names of apparently important people. I have a feeling that learning how the history of my family, friends and neighbours fits into the history of this country would make it easier to learn our history and to remember Sir John A. Macdonald (our first Prime Minister) for more than his drinking habits.
More than what's taught, I am preoccupied by a value that I never hear discussed but which indicates to me a key difference between
|A class in
The scales have dropped from my eyes, thanks to my reading more widely about the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. The World Bank is an institution that channels funds, in the form of loans, from richer countries to the developing world. It also dispenses advice on how borrowing countries should manage their economies, and sometimes it ties the loan to the borrower's willingness to follow that advice.
The impact of the Bank's commitment to market-oriented policies, including deregulation of the economy, often left a country's government without the necessary resources to cover costs, coupled with a pressure to privatize. So education, along with access to clean water and health care-all things Canadians assume as rights-had to be paid for! The moral questions that arise from this quandary are many: a lifeline is extended with one hand but with the other, there is a push towards further enslavement in poverty.
There have been changes in some countries in the matter of education. Until the late 1990s, donor policy considered fees as a means of 'cost-sharing', 'community involvement' and 'parent responsibility'. Since 2000, as donors became increasingly aware of communities' resentment over paying school/uniform/supply fees (which they regarded as a tax), donors have become more willing to enable free primary school education and school fees have now been abolished in some countries.
As part of my further education, I have also discovered some local rays of hope, things that I, and others, can do. Grandmothers and grandmother wannabes can join retired Archdeacon Barbara Clay and many others within The Grandmothers to Grandmothers Campaign (a program of the Stephen Lewis Foundation) who raise funds for school fees and supplies as well as for food and income-generating projects, raise awareness, and advocate for
I'm not ready to adopt the role of grandmother, but I am willing to learn more about
And I will continue to read obituaries as part of my lifelong learning of