Draconian measures required to fix SA broken education system

Nelson Mandela education quote


Is South Africa and government progressing in the challenge to reverse the legacy of Bantu education. Is the leadership of South Africa being honest and doing all it can to address all the wrongs of Apartheid? Even though the country has come a long way since the dark days of Apartheid, there are still so many challenges and issues to address and it all begins with a good education system and strong leadership.

During the dark days of Apartheid, the education system discriminated against individuals based on their skin color and ethnicity. The result of Bantu education prohibited the vast majority of our society from accessing a decent education system and deprived them of basic school resources. Even with these deplorable our society prevailed. The fall of Apartheid brought a sense of hope and expectation that there would be a profound change in the education system offering a decent and equal education to all citizens of South Africa.

Sadly after 20 years, freedom and democracy has not brought about any changes for many citizens and children of the country. Contrary to the promises of many politicians and the Constitution of South Africa, many citizens and children still do not have access to a decent education granting them the opportunity and chance to a improve their lives and those close to them. The South Africa education system continues to fail or provide for those children who have no power to change anything. The Department of Education problems and issues continue to grow even with the changes and updates to the system on a whole.


Textbooks and proper learning material

Firstly, let start with basics and where education all begins. In order to learn you need textbooks and lets be honest, for those children in the Limpopo Province, they have been dealt a huge blow at no fault of their own with the ‘textbook scandal’. To date, no one has been held accountable for this and the government and leadership has yet to give a reasonable and honest explanation for this disaster. The delivery of textbook to children is not an issue in Limpopo but also in the Eastern Cape and Kwazulu-Natal. All this is doing is delaying the education of children because of the lack of accountability in government and leadership of our country.

In many areas of the country there is still a scarcity of libraries to provide school pupils additional resources to supplement the lack of resources at schools. In many areas it is only the teachers who have textbooks in the classrooms. How do we as a society and government, who are the custodians of the country, expect our children to succeed at school and provide them with the opportunity to further their education at college and university. How do we expect children to learn, do school projects, write tests without access to the proper learning material.  It should be a criminal offense with highest and most extreme punishment attached for those individuals and government officials who are depriving the children of South Africa a basic education.


UN Declaration of the Rights

On 20 November 1959 the United Nations General Assembly adopted a much expanded version as its own Declaration of the Rights of the Child, adding ten principles in place of the original five. Principle 7 reads as follows:

“The child is entitled to receive education, which shall be free and compulsory, at least in the elementary stages. He shall be given an education which will promote his general culture and enable him, on a basis of equal opportunity, to develop his abilities, his individual judgement, and his sense of moral and social responsibility, and to become a useful member of society.

  The best interests of the child shall be the guiding principle of those responsible for his education and guidance; that responsibility lies in the first place with his parents.”

  The child shall have full opportunity for play and recreation, which should be directed to the same purposes as education; society and the public authorities shall endeavour to promote the enjoyment of this right.”

It is a grave injustice and criminal for the children of South Africa to suffer because of the incompetence of our government and those individuals responsible for providing a basic education.


School infrastructure and maintenance

The next major problem the country faces is the lack of proper and basic infrastructure and maintenance in schools. In some parts of the country, children have to walk vast distances to go to school only to sit under a tree which is their classroom. How can we expect a child to learn like in winter. How can we expect our children to grow up and succeed in life when they, in some instances, children have to walk barefoot and no food in their stomach while we hear of stories of government officials riding around in the latest BMW, taking first class airline trip, staying in 5 star hotels, government officials  running up tabs at Nandos running tabs into the 10’s of thousands, the suspect R80 billion arms deal….. the list goes on and on and on.

For those areas that do have basic schools and infrastructure, you will find that many of the roofs are leaking, there is no access to clean water and sanitation. However, our leaders, government, and parents still expect the children of the country to succeed in these deplorable school environments.


Teacher training and qualifications

Given all of this, school children are further burdened with the reality that they are taught by under-qualified teachers. There are many teachers that are very professional and are contributing immensely to the education system, however looking at the system as a whole, this is still not enough. Why are there still teachers out there arriving late for class. Why are there teachers that do not have or understand the curriculum being allowed to teach our children. All this is doing is placing the children of the country at a disadvantage and placing a huge amount of stress on the future growth and development of the country.

In order to give schools pupils any hope of success, we need to provide them with a quality education taught by qualified teachers. How can we honestly expect teacher who have junior certificates and did not finish high school themselves, to go out and teach our children; the future of the country and society.

The onus and responsibility of this falls directly on the President and Department of Education. It is their responsibility to provide and ensure that qualified teachers are placed in our schools. Yes, we can expect that during the dark days of apartheid it was the will of the government to provide a less than basic education and have unqualified teachers teaching black children to ensure that Bantu education maintain the  status quo thereby ensuring a white supremacy and black inferiority. Not only is it the responsibly of government but also trade unions who need to stand up and acknowledge their part in the education system. Trade unions need to make sure that their members are qualified and encourage them to acquire the skills that are fundamental to ensure that they can do their jobs in an efficient and productive way.

It is high time that the country places more emphasis on the global and fundamentals rights of children and their access to a quality education. The one things that can empower and improve the lives of all South Africans is education. We cannot blame the low quality of education in the country on lack of resources or the Apartheid government any longer. We can place blame on the lack of will of our leaders and government. It is a tragedy and a disaster, given the amount of money assigned to education in the annual budget, that South Africa is ranked 133 out of 142 countries surveyed by the World Economic Forum. This is an unacceptable scenario 20 years into democracy where South Africans have gained their freedom and are no longer discriminated against because of their skin color.


Education research studies and reports

How many studies and reports need to be undertaken before our leaders face up to the reality that our education system is broken. The recent report by the Council on Higher Education highlighted that atrocious performances and results of university graduates in the country. The report reveals that less than 5% of all black and coloured students are capable of succeeding at university, and more than 50% of university students do not complete their degrees and graduate. The report outlines that the leading cause for the atrocious student performance at university level is primarily due to the inadequate academic performance at school. Furthermore, the report states that given the current schooling curriculum and systems, there is little hope that the South African schooling system will be adequately be able to prepare matriculants to levels required by higher education institutions in the near future.

Research done by National Education Evaluation and Development Unit (Needu) at the Department of Education has revealed some alarming and highly disturbing facts that there are students that are unable to even read a single word. Research results show that roughly 13% of pupils could read a single word from a simple test that was given to them. Dr Nick Taylor, the head of the National Education Evaluation and Development Unit, has called on government to make reading a national priority.


How to fix a broken education system

In order to fix the education system and overcome all the challenges the county is facing when it does to education, all start with government taking responsibility and being held accountable for their actions. The Norms and Standards Act should be implemented and actions taken to apply the changes. However, the reality and fact is that government cannot fix the problem alone. Government needs to act first and take the initiative to build trust and faith in the government and Department of Eduction. The government and all members of parliament need to take the concerns brought forward by civil society seriously. In order to form partnerships with NGO’s and other stakeholders involved with education, the government needs to show that they can be trusted, be responsible and be held accountable for their actions.

The National Education Collaboration between parent bodies, NGOs, trade unions and community leaders is a huge step forward and in the right direction with the aim and objective of improving the quality of education. It is the right of each and every citizen of South Africa to have access to education and it is up to the government of the day to stand up and honor the rights of its citizens and uphold the constitution of the country.

All South Africans need to wake up, stand up and use their voting rights, and hold the government accountable for the right to a basic education for all citizens and learners.


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