Tag Archives: South Africa

SA economic growth will succeed by building universities

Minister of Higher Education and Training, Dr Blade Nzimande
Minister of Higher Education and Training, Dr Blade Nzimande


Minister of Higher Education and Training, Dr Blade Nzimande believes that in order to ease the student burden when enrolling for university for further education and studies will only come with the building of new universities.

New information has revealed that roughly 21% of all student applications to universities in the country were successful. It is clear that there is an increased demand for higher education in the country.

The aim of the Department of Education is to meet the prescribed goals of the National Development Plan which requires that higher education participation in the country increase from 19.9% to 30% by 2030.

The government has allocated a large portion of the national budget towards education since 2007 and intends to commit a further R6 billion over the next 2 years. In addition, the establishment of the new University of Mpumalanga (UMP) is going to need roughly R7 billion over the course of 10 years.

The establishment of UMP is a clear indication that the government is committed to the transformation process within the education sector and is determined to provide access to education to all individuals in South Africa.

It is  forgone conclusion that higher education contributes to national development and growth, the question is what is the standard of quality of this education. Institutions of higher education and learning play a pivotal role in training students for the labour market and provide individual with the necessary skills to succeed in their careers.

Not only do universities provide teaching, learning and professional development for students, universities and other institutions of higher education provide leadership skills through research and knowledge creation in critical areas of national development. Higher education is not about physical buildings rather it is about the development of cultural and economic life of our communities.

“We therefore expect no Ivory Towers here but rather an institution accessible to all, particularly the rural communities of Mpumalanga, where some of this university’s research will be done. It is from these communities as well as from across the country that it will draw its students. Therefore, there should be engagement at all levels of the institution,” Dr  Nzimande was quoted as saying at the launch of the University of Mpumalanga.

The minister also reiterated the point that higher learning and the establishment of more universities across the country is important in the reproduction and transformation of the society.

“At the University of Mpumalanga, learning and culture should embody democracy and social justice, whilst contributing to transformation, growth and development of the economy. The university must contribute to creating a non-racial and non-sexist egalitarian society underpinned by human dignity, the rule of law, a democratic ethos and human rights,” the minister stated.

Dr Nzimande also highlighted that fact that expansion of higher education institutions across the country must be accompanied by a good quality of education.

Source: SAnews.gov.za


SA school pupils out-perform their teachers in basic mathematics

Economic researcher Nicholas Spaull from the University of Stellenbosch
Economic researcher Nicholas Spaull from the University of Stellenbosch


As matric students commence their final exams, a new research study by Nicholas Spaull from the University of Stellenbosch, indicates that Grade 6 pupils are out-performing their teachers in basic mathematics.

The vast majority of matric students accomplish a mark of between 40% – 49% in mathematics and in 2008 the average mark for maths was 45%. If we consider the outcomes of Spaull’s recent study as an indication of the state of the South African education system and teacher skills, we not only have a crisis in the country but instead a national disaster of epic proportions.

How can we expect the local South African economy to grow and create more jobs for the unemployed or create a breeding ground for entrepreneurs to start businesses, if school pupils are barely competent to solve basic mathematics problem while their teachers, who are meant to guide these learners, are not capable of teaching their pupils.

The research study centered on Grade 6 teachers from disadvantaged schools throughout the country. The results of the study revealed that teachers are not capable of solving basic mathematics problems presented to them. Conclusions may also be inferred that primary school teachers are in all probability no better.

Probably the most disconcerting outcome of the study showed that the top performing Grade 6 pupils easily out-performed some Grade 6 teachers. The very best Grade 6 pupils (5%) had the ability to achieve higher marks on the same mathematics tests that the bottom 20% of Grade 6 mathematics teachers wrote. If this does not result in any red flags and/or warning signs regarding the state of South Africa’s education system, then what is going to jolt our leaders and government to wake up and admit that the country’s education system is in a shambles and crisis.

The study undertaken by Spaull was compiled by conducting a desktop study of the Southern and Eastern Africa Consortium for Monitoring Educational Quality 111 report (Sacmeq) which had been performed in 2007. As part of this study, Grade 6 pupils and teachers from South Africa and 12 other African countries were required to write precisely the same mathematics tests. Even though questions were not identical, the difficulty level was the same for all those tested.

Spaull’s is quoted as saying that, “There is a case to be made that teachers who lack an elementary understanding of the subjects they teach can actually do harm to their pupils.”

When will the South African government as well as those given the responsibly of educating and training our youth accept the reality that when teachers do not possess the ability and skills to understand the content that they are teaching then there is a problem, and that the problem ought to be dealt with immediately.

“Teachers who lack a sufficient conceptual understanding of their subject are more likely to employ inappropriate concrete techniques when teaching and use methods that undermine the long-term learning trajectories of pupils,”said Spaull.

The results of the study highlighted the following facts:

  •  No more than 32% of Grade 6 mathematics teachers in South Africa hold the required skills and knowledge of mathematics content knowledge. The average for 14 African countries is 42%
  •  South African teachers were only capable of answering 46% of the questions correctly presented to them
  •  60% of the Grade 6 mathematics teachers from the poorest South African schools have statistically considerably less mathematics content knowledge compared to the average Grade 6 teachers in Swaziland, Tanzania and Uganda.

Spaull concluded from his research and recommended that government reintroduce the controversial teacher competency test which was emphatically apposed by the SA Democratic Teachers’ Union (Sadtu).

As increasing numbers of studies are performed and research undertaken in the country, there is growing factual evidence and data highlighting the undeniable fact that a large proportion of teachers in the country lack the basic required content knowledge in the subject that they teach. This is because of the inadequate teacher training and ineffectiveness of in-service teacher training initiatives.

“In light of this, and following the premise that teachers cannot teach what they do not know, it is a logical imperative that a system of identifying which teachers need what help is urgently required, ” said Spaull.

Sadtu is totally against any competency testing of teachers and that teachers testing is not an option. Mugwena Maluleke, Sadtu general secretary, has stated that the union is totally against any teacher competency tests and that the union does not want them. They would prefer that teachers be provided with further training to further improve their skills and competency.

Well, if this is the case, how can you expect to offer further training and skills development programs to teachers when you have no knowledge or information of the skills that these teachers are lacking. Maluleke does concede to fact that some teachers do not have the ability to do maths however, not because they are stupid, rather for the reason that there are no specialized teachers. “We take people who did history or geography and ask them to teach maths. What do you expect?”

Maluleke has highly recommended that the government and the Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga should make it a top priority to open teacher training colleges to provide teachers the necessary training opportunities to specialize in certain subjects and attain the basic skills necessary to teach those subject. Motshekga has stated publicly that her department is aware of the issue and this has resulted in the introduction of the Annual National Assessments.

The question that Motshekga really should answer, is how many assessments do we need to undertake before the government realizes the crisis in the South African education system, and additionally assume responsibility for the problems within the education system. Everyone might point a finger at Motshekga considering that she hold the position of Basic Education Minister, but the current failure of our education system is the responsibility of the entire South African government.

Like many others in the country, I do not believe that there will be any changes in the near future until such time that individuals are held accountable for their actions and that government and leaders assume responsibility for the crisis in the education system. The only people who will and are suffering, through no fault of their own, are our school pupils whose future success looks bleak.

Source: citypress, fundza.co.za (image)


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.


13% of Grade 2 pupils in South Africa cannot read a single word

Dr Nick Taylor - head of the National Education Evaluation and Development Unit
Dr Nick Taylor – head of the National Education Evaluation and Development Unit


Dr Nick Taylor has called South Africa’s literacy levels a national catastrophe and a disaster for the country and future economic growth. Speaking at the National Professional Teachers’ Organisation of South Africa (Naptosa) breakfast, Dr Taylor revealed some alarming statistics about the country literacy levels and appealed to government to do something about it.  Dr Nick Taylor, the head of the National Education Evaluation and Development Unit (Needu) at the Department of Education, has has called on government to make reading a national priority.

On average a grade 2 pupils should have the capability and literacy level of reading between 60 – 70 words per minute, however research has shown that this is not the case in schools in South Africa. In addition, pupils that progress to grade 5 are continue to struggle and are falling even further behind their classmates.


Shocking Revelations

Research done by Needu 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. Grade 5 pupils on average, are reading about 80 – 90 words per minute. According to Dr Taylor the current literacy level in country are a national catastrophe and disaster.

In other report and studies undertaken by Needu has revealed that the country’s education system is failing due to the fact that teachers are unable  or qualified to teach and they did not have a rasp of the curriculum.  If teachers do not know what the curriculum is about, then how are they capable of teaching or allowed to teach. The only individuals who will suffer are the pupils themselves through no fault of their own and the chances of succeeding at school or as adults does not look promising.

The Needu research was conducted in 133 schools around the country. The question coming out of the studies and research is that if pupils are not able to read by grade 5, then the Department of Basic Education, government, and President Zuma need to answer is what are teachers doing? What is government doing about this national disaster and failure of the education system? What are school management teams and school principals doing about student assessments? Where are the parents or guardians of these children doing about their children who are unable to read?

Dr Taylor asked “How can they allow the children to be far behind after five years? Are they not watching them?”

The studies reveals that schools and teachers are devoting too much time to group reading instead of assigning more time to individual reading. Pupils also showed evidence that they are unable to succeed and struggle with comprehension tests given to them.


Scarcity of books in schools

The studies also revealed an alarming fact that the majority of foundational classes in the 133 schools lacked an efficient number of books. There were only 2 or 3 books available to read over the course of 1 year. At this level, pupils should be reading at least one or two books every week. If there are not enough books to read, how can you expect or blame the pupils for not being able to read. The government should be held directly accountable for this national sister given the fat that they are responsible for the the education of all citizens of South Africa.

Dr Taylor stated that school leaders and management should monitor student performance and has pleaded with teacher unions to address the quality of teaching.

Apart from the  Department of Education and Government, parents and guardians also need to accept part of the blame and responsibility for the literacy levels of their children and at our schools and need to get involved in their children’s education and assist them. However, it is the primary responsibility of the schools to make sure that pupils can read independently by Grade 2.

Basil Manuel, the president of Naptosa, stated that children should read anything that is available to them even if it food packaging labels on cereal boxes in order to grasp and improve their basic language skills.


Contact details:

For any comments and/or feedback, feel free to contact The Presidency or the Department of Basic Education.

President Zuma at The Presidency – CLICK HERE

Minister Angie Motshekga at Department of Basic Education – CLICK HERE


Lack of education is the root of SA unskilled labour force problems

Education South Africa


The root of South Africa’s problems and lack of a skilled labour force stems from the poor education system and with those given the responsibility to administer the nations education system. The main cause of unemployment, poverty and inequality in South Africa today is not  only because of the history of Apartheid but due to the bad education, lack of accountability in government and low standards of our schooling system today.

There is growing concern by businesses and universities over the failure and ability of most school pupils to pass mathematics. Given this failure and lack of will in government to address this issue is causing a skills shortage in numerous professions in the country.

It is a universally accepted principle that education is the catalyst for any economic and human growth within a society and is a fundamental human right which has a direct effect on any democracy and political stability.

Research has shown that the vast majority of South African school students are opting for mathematical literacy because they feel that they would rather opt for subject that they have a chance of passing. In the recent World Economic Forum review and study on maths and science education ranked South Africa 133 out of 142 countries overall. When it came to  maths and science education, South Africa came in at 141 ahead of Yemen in last place.

Studies have shown that the country’s education system is failing to achieve basic standards of numeracy and literacy in grades three and six. A former Wits University mathematics lecturer Lynn Bowie, was quoted as saying that, “The problems in mathematics education in South Africa do not begin at matric level. Both research and personal experience indicates that many of our learners do not get a firm foundation in mathematics at primary school and so enter high school without the skills necessary to progress in mathematics.”

The basics premise of any education system is that education is built upon what is learnt in the previous year. If pupils do not get a good foundation in mathematics is highly unlikely that these pupils will be able to succeed at higher levels as they progress through the education system.

While we can point fingers at the Education Department and lack of government will and accountability to tackle the failures in the country’s education system, we must also look at the pupils and their commitments and will to study. According to many reports and statements from teachers, who are too afraid to speak publicly to protect their jobs, blame students and parents for the lack of commitment to their education. Teachers say that pupils do just enough in class to achieve a pass mark but do not practise what they re learning and when they fail it is always the teachers who take the brunt of the blame and responsibility. Those students who take their education seriously and value the benefits of a good education do well and go on to achieve university degrees. Many teachers feel that the government lowers the education standards in order to create the impression that the pass rates are good and improving.

Education is should not a used as a political tool to gain four in the eyes of the voting public. Rather it is enshrined in the constitution as a basic right for all individuals to have access to education.

There is a feeling amongst many parents in the country that they would prefer that their children attend private schools because they feel that public school teachers do the bare minimum and lack commitment to their profession. parents understand that teachers have a preference towards private schools given the higher salaries and better work environment.

The National Planning Commission has published statistics that teachers in black schools teach on average only 3.5 hours per day as compared to 6.5 hours per day in former while schools.

Currently, in order for  student to achieve a pass mark for maths all they need is between 30 and 40 percent. This is a deeply worrying fact given that this result does not permit the student to enroll in any degree that requires mathematics at universities.

To achieve the minimum pass mark for maths, student need only to display that they have mastered only fairly routine procedures according to Lynn Bowie. “To be able to cope with the rigours of university mathematics learners would need to have demonstrated capabilities in dealing with more complex procedures and in problem-solving.”

Over the past few years, only a small fraction (less than 20 000) of the total number of students sitting for their matric exams, roughly half-a-million , are able to achieve the results in mathematics that is required by universities in order to cope the high level of mathematics required by degrees such as engineering or actuarial science.

This low standard and lack of student being able to achieve good results in mathematics is having a huge effect on the labour force and number of skilled professionals required to grow the economy.

A student, who prefers to remain anonymous, who attended ML Sultan Secondary School, a public school in Pietermaritzburg, gained entry to pursue mathematics at Wits University attributes his success to hard work and a dedicated teacher who offered extra lessons over weekends. All those participating in the group all achieved good grades in Matric. The student is of the opinion that the government and Department of Education are not serious about improving the standards of education in the country.

Upon graduation the pupil applied to education department for a job to assist mathematics pupils in Pietermaritzburg region and in return all the pupils was asking was transport money as compensation. The Department of Education has not replied to the student request.

Last year, South Africa’s expenditure on education was 6% of gross domestic product. In the 2012/13 financial year, education would account for almost R207 billion.

Statistics from the South African Institute of Race Relations show that at least 84 high schools do not offer mathematics for grades 10 to 12 last year. The Limpopo province having the highest number of school not offering mathematics. The reason for this is the lack of qualified teachers on a national basis.

The reality and research has shown that the vast majority of pupils who perform poorly in mathematics in Matric are black students which in turn rings alarm bells hen it comes to fixing inequalities in certain faculties at tertiary institutions if not impossible.

Currently all matric students undertake the same exam in mathematics if they want to pusue a career in engineering at university level or if it s basic requirement for a technically-related trade they wanted to pursue. “Our one-size-fits-all mathematics curriculum and school-leaving examination is unusual in the international context and perhaps needs to be reconsidered,” said Bowie.

The success or failure of students does not only fall on the quality of teachers and principles at schools, but also lies with parents, government commitment and accountability, and the Department of Education.