Our Kids Deserve So Much Better

Manitoba’s government insists on wasting money which should be spent on bettering public education in our province

If only this were satire

Manitoba’s education ministry just announced a campaign to enhance student presence and engagement.

Get this.

They’re calling it…

“School. Keep Going.”

That’s it, that’s their slogan.

Tweet from @minewasko: “In enhancing student presence and engagement, I’m glad to announce that our @MBGov is launching a new media campaign called “School. Keep Going” to provide students and parents the information and benefits of regular school attendance. #SchoolKeepGoing #mbed #mbpoli
Screenshots provided by author

What is the government actually doing?

When I went to the government’s education website, it simply took me to the “Safe and Caring Schools” policy document, which was created two years ago.

That document isn’t even about attendance, its alleged purpose is to reduce the use of seclusion and restraint in Manitoba schools, but it’s one that is most definitely not being followed or enforced in our schools.

I see a sidebar with information for parents and educators, which takes me to a bullet-point list of ways in which teachers and parents can support and encourage student attendance.

So, again, I ask: what is our government doing with our tax dollars to actually support our children’s education? Aside from wasting thousands on a silly campaign with colourful signs and promotional materials, what meaningful steps are they taking?

What school leaders can do

There’s a list of 11 suggestions for school leaders to help encourage student attendance. I’ll list a few of them here with my questions and concerns.

Create a safe, welcoming, and culturally responsive school environment.

  • Great! — how? What resources is the government providing to schools to allow this?
  • What funding are they providing so school staff can receive culturally competent training?

Seek to understand; work collaboratively with students, families, and staff to identify barriers to school presence and engagement. Utilize restorative practices in your school.

  • What steps is our government taking to improve the education training programs, so that teachers come better trained to support students with disabilities, learning disabilities, neurodivergence, challenging behaviours, and other learning differences?
  • What steps is our government taking to improve the education training programs, so that teachers receive training in collaborative and restorative practices?
  • What funding are they providing so school staff can attend regular training and ensure they are well supported in maintaining collaborative relationships with their students?

Improve student connection to the school through extracurricular activities that meet a broad spectrum of interests. Lead school-based attendance initiatives.

  • What funding and support is our government providing so schools have the resources to offer more extra-curricular activities and to lead school-based initiatives?
  • Due to significant budget cuts, many of these programs have been down-sized or cut entirely due to inadequate finances.

What parents can do

There’s also a list of 10 suggestions for parents to help encourage their child’s attendance. I’ll list a couple of them here with my questions and concerns.

Connect with your child’s school early in the school year; establish a collaborative relationship with your child’s teacher(s).

  • The parents and families I support try very hard to establish a positive relationship with their children’s schools.
  • Often they email the teacher, but receive no response, or a very short response after waiting a long period of time.
  • When they try to connect with the support team at their child’s school, they often receive no response, or wait a very long time for any sort of follow-up, if any happens at all.

Avoid scheduling medical appointments and vacation when school is in session.

  • Do they not realize that most medical clinics are only open during “business hours”, and it’s nearly impossible to get appointments outside of school hours?
Created by author

Point missed entirely

The focus of this campaign is on the parents, school staff, and students. That’s not where the problem is, although those in positions of power would love for us to continue fighting amongst ourselves so they can avoid any real accountability.

The problem is higher up the proverbial food chain.

The problem is in our education programs and policies, and our government’s complete incompetence when it comes to properly funding and supporting public education in our province.

They can make all the bullet lists and social media posts they want, but those won’t change a damn thing. The problem is much bigger and goes much deeper than that.

Created by author

You know why my son didn’t want to go to school in grades one and two?

Because he was bullied by his principal and mistreated by school staff.

He has ADHD and struggled as a young child in a very rigid and unaccommodating school environment. At age 6, they were already blaming him for his difficulties, and not looking at what changes the adults could make to better meet his needs.

Other reasons children miss school:

  • Poverty
  • Mistreatment, bullying
  • Lack of resources
  • Staff not knowledgeable about neurodivergence and disabilities
  • Inadequate support
  • Illness
  • Serious family issues (addictions, poverty, abuse)
Some reasons children miss school: Poverty Mistreatment, bullying Lack of resources Staff not knowledgeable about neurodivergence and disabilities Inadequate support Illness Serious family issues (addictions, poverty, abuse)
Created by author

Nowhere in the literature does it indicate that students miss school because children or their parents aren’t aware of the expectation to get an education.

Final thoughts

Inherent in the messaging on the education ministry’s website is the assumption that children must attend a physical school in order to learn.

Do you know what my son learned at school in grades one and two? That he was a “bad kid who does bad things”. That’s what he thought of himself at age six, thanks to our public education system, and a school with a particularly toxic culture (he no longer attends that school).

It was better for his self-concept and mental health to not attend school until we found somewhere that would treat him like a person instead of a problem.

Quote by Naomi Fisher — (image created by author on Canva)

The Manitoba education website states:

“Regular school attendance helps children to maximize the educational opportunities available to them, and prepares them to reach their full potential… Parents, caregivers, and students are all responsible for making sure students are on time and ready to learn.”

-Manitoba Education

We put way too much faith in our public education system, and way too little faith in our children’s natural ability to learn. Humans are learning all the time. Every interaction and experience we have, good or bad, teaches us something.

I was nearly expelled from high school for truancy when my absentee rate exceeded 65% at mid-term, but without even attending the majority of my classes, I was still maintaining a B average. I was able to challenge the threat of expulsion because I learned better independently and was able to pass all my exams.

If school is teaching our kids they are inconvenient, inadequate, or just plain “bad”, then being absent may be the best thing for them.

Lack of attendance in a formal classroom does not mean lack of education. For some kids, it’s quite the opposite.

© Jillian Enright, Neurodiversity MB

Related Articles

How Schools Create Students Who Just Don’t Give A Damn

Preventing Seclusion And Restraint In Schools

Playing Politics With Our Children’s Education

Funding Public Education

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Fisher, N. (2021). Changing Our Minds: How children can take control of their own learning. Robinson.

Even more related articles

I Don’t Care What My Son Learns in Elementary School

Supporting Students Through Task Avoidance

The Sting Of Internalized Stigma

Books And Articles About Education

Published by Neurodiversity MB

Jillian has Child and Youth Work diploma as well as a BA in Psychology. Jillian worked on the front lines of Social Services agencies from 2003 - 2012. Jillian has taken numerous continuing education courses and has attended various workshops focused on supporting neurodiverse children, in particular children with ADHD.

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