Gulag Primary

We live near our primary school, about as near as we could be without actually camping in the grounds. We open the back gate into the laneway and the school is just on the other side of the fence. I'm the first to admit the convenience of this arrangement. If we're running late in the morning, a child can climb the low fence and sprint straight to class. At home time, I stand just outside out the back gate with the dog and wait for my offspring to come running across the playground. While I wait, I see the other laneway regulars -- families who live in the streets nearby, who use the alley as a shortcut. We smile and chat, and the dog runs to greet them.

Now I hear that there are plans afoot to build a new fence along the alleyway -- an eight foot high fence, impossible to climb. The neighborhood families will no longer be able to use the north fence as a handy shortcut; we will all have to walk the long way round. I could live with that, if there was a good reason for building a dirty great high security fence; but there isn't.

The reason, apparently, is 'safety.' Whose safety? Are they worried about children injuring themselves as they scramble over the fence? That doesn't seem to be the problem. No, 'safety' is, as is often the case in these situations, code for 'predators.' It seems there are concerns (whose concerns?) that the low fences of our primary school attract paedophiles, who lurk in the alleyway waiting to catch a child clambering over the fence and whisk them away. It's odd that in all the afternoons I've spent waiting for my children to come home that way, I have yet to set eyes on any suspicious characters; instead I see other parents, my neighbours, older siblings, schoolkids, walking home.

It's not huge high razor-wire fences that keep our communities safe. What keeps us safe is connections. Recognising and greeting each other every day; exchanging a few words of gossip, and a pat for the dog; holding someone's baby or their plate of cupcakes while they scramble over the fence; kids being able to say, 'That's Evie's mum,' and giving me a wave when they see me walk past.

If that fence goes up, I will not be happy. Not only is it a massive, unnecessary waste of money that could be better spent elsewhere (literacy support, anyone?)

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