Life Over The Air

Ever heard of the School of the Air? It's an Australian thing, from deep within the Australian outback. A peculiar and quite unusual one at that, until recently.

Life Over The Air

Twenty years ago, our school teacher gave us an article. On some other children's lives in a country far, far away: Australia.

They lived in huge farms, separated by miles and miles of road, in the middle of big uninhabited landscapes: the Australian Bush.

Photo by Jacques Bopp / Unsplash

Everyday, they would wake up, eat breakfast, clean up, dress up, just like we did, and get ready for school. Just like us.

There was no school to go to. The children were just too far apart for such a place to make any sense. There was no school to go to, and yet they were all part of a classroom, with a teacher, just like we did.

Every morning, they would all convene in their own homes, and class would begin. Over the radio.

Halfway across the world, children so far apart they barely ever saw each other, went to school together.

They talked together without breathing the same air. They learned together without seeing each other. They played together without running around in the same playground. They celebrated birthdays and played music together, while hundreds of miles apart. They were together without ever being... together.

It was so different. So odd, so far removed. So strange. Incredible. And fascinating.

That was twenty years ago.

Today, we exchange e-mails with business partners we'll never shake hands with.

We chat with friends over WhatsApp, Telegram, Facebook Messenger or iMessage, but will only meet them at most once or twice a week, for those who aren't living on the other side of the country or the world.

We talk to our families over the phone, and don't get to meet them that often.

We argue on Twitter with strangers' (and sometimes bots) whose faces our eyes will never lay on.

We meet new people every day, most of which we'll never actually meet, through dating apps.

Some of us (many more with the current lockdowns) even only ever see their colleagues on a screen, via Zoom or Skype.

Living this way, over the air, used to be an extraordinary measure, reserved for a few people without any other choice. People who lived in strange, foreign, faraway, extraordinary lands.

We all live in that world now.

Curious about Australia's "School of the Air"? Check out this article from Atlas Obscura!