With Human Rights Day on 21 March fast approaching, it is a natural time to reflect on the state of human rights in South Africa. The right to education is a fundamental human right.
Without education, an individual cannot realise their full potential and shake off the shackles of poverty. Media Works’ Jackie Carroll puts a spotlight on the right to education, what that encompasses, and what the country can do if this basic right is not being provided as it should.
The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) has a constitutional mandate to monitor the realisation of the right to a basic education in South Africa.
The SAHRC began drafting a Charter of Basic Education Rights in 2013 in consultation with the Department of Basic Education and Unicef, with the aim of bringing numerous public school anomalies to the fore. The charter lists legal obligations that the government must fulfil in order to ensure that all learners in South Africa have access to quality education.
Currently, the gradients of education are polarised in South Africa and general guidelines and standards needed to be set in local schools. The SAHRC hopes to use the charter to make South Africans aware of what the government should deliver to schools, and make demands accordingly.
The final draft concluded by Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga and NGO Equal Education will be published in May 2014. The intent of this charter is admirable, but many educational authorities have wondered how this charter will encourage schools and educators to take their responsibilities more seriously right now. It will surely take many years for learners to be provided with a decent, solid education while the charter’s ambitions for literacy and numeracy take root.
In the interim, matriculants continue to enter the work force virtually illiterate without the skills to successfully pursue either tertiary education or an artisan career. Catastrophically, the majority of those who have completed matric are being placed on AET (Adult Education and Training) levels that are below Grade 9 with low levels of literacy, which means there is significant work to be done.
With this shortfall, responsibility has fallen on corporates and big business to train and educate current or prospective employees who are equally deserving of their human rights. AET is the only way to bridge the gap between what should have been achieved at school and what needs to be learned to function as an employee, in order to contribute to the economy and society at large.
Despite year on year increased government budget allocations for education, the ROI on this spending is dismal. We spend the largest portion of our budget on education, yet we have been ranked once again, 146th out of 148 places, by the World Economic Forum, in the Global Competitiveness report – below all our BRICS peers (Brazil; Russia; India and China).
The Independent Council on Higher Education’s latest data shows that about half the students who enter university drop out before they complete their degrees or diplomas – this is a huge waste of money and potential. Losing 50% of university entrants is a clear indication that matriculants are not equipped properly for further study. They have not received a decent basic education.
There is no point in increasing access to further education and training opportunities, if we do not improve the success rate of these opportunities. The recently published White Paper on Post School Education and Training is very clear on how access to these opportunities needs to be increased, but no one is addressing the root cause of the poor success rate – poor performing Basic Education.
We need to address the quality of our Basic Education. We must not accept a 30% pass rate as being satisfactory. We must not accept meritocracy, for fear of believing that we are “dangerously elitist” as Minister Nzimande will have us think, because we reject 30% as not being competent. Until we are able to improve the quality of our education in South Africa, we will have to continue to import the skills that we need – at a premium price. This price comes at a premium cost to our economy; our personal development and the right to a decent life for all our people.
South Africa is not yet providing every child with a decent education however there are moves towards improving the state of education, as can be seen in SAHRC charter. It is only through education that the country will see a significant amount of social change and a decrease of poverty. A literate workforce is an empowered and more valuable society with fires in their hearts, food on their tables and their right to an education fulfilled.
via Skills Portal