Writer: Kagisho Nkadimeng
Last year saw the children who were born in 1994 matriculating. 19 years later, it is almost impossible to imagine the kind of progress we have successfully made. Being born in 1993, the dying days of Apartheid, I have never personally experienced that regime. But I get shivers down my spine when I hear people who were there reminisce about those dark days. We truly are very fortunate and privileged to be here as we have a great opportunity to create better lives for future generations.
So it is with great disappointment that our education system is in the state it is in currently. Education, perhaps is the most crucial basic foundation of any country and economy after democracy and healthcare. So it baffles me to see the state of education as it is now. Yes we inherited a dysfunctional education system from the previous regime. One might be tempted to point fingers but such systematic problems are not easily fixed by waving a magic wand. And they will not be solved shifting the blame either. Personally I think everyone of us has to take equal blame if we are to stand up and fix the problem. We all play a role in whatever happens, weather directly or indirectly. And it is through admitting our mistakes that we can begin to fix our problems.
No system is perfect but I believe we can learn very valuable lessons from how the private schools are run. The first question we have to ask is “why is it that they can obtain matric pass rates of 95% every year”? Yes they pay good money. But I believe the government is also paying good money to run the current education system.
Perhaps how we use the money is part of the problem. We simply throw money at our problems thinking they will be solved. As a country we have one of the biggest social expenditure budgets globally. Pumping all this money is great as it shows we do care. But when that money is thrown in the hands of a few corrupt individuals who enrich themselves, then the cause becomes futile.
I think some of our main problems in education include (but not limited to):
Teachers: they are a very critical component if we are to improve our education system. Being a teacher is not for the faint hearted, it is a very rare skill that requires a strong balancing act of adequate qualifications and a passion for teaching. Teachers create and shape young delicate minds by teaching them to think for themselves. So those individuals should not only be in it for the salary. Teachers should be hard-working, dedicated and passionate.
Teachers Unions: these are perhaps the most notorious among the problems facing education in the country. They should move with the times. I cannot understand why they were protesting, they say the department of education never kept their word on paying teachers for marking supplementary exams. If they are consistent and really care about teachers why didn’t they protest when there were no textbooks in Limpopo? Why don’t they protest against the mud schools in the Eastern Cape? I think they are hypocrites who live on double standards. In modern day South Africa, I don’t think we have room for teacher unions to behave the way they do. I sometimes think that these
unionists are just political activists who are in the wrong profession. Because their activities hamper the basic human right of access to education that is engraved in our constitution. Yes teachers are underpaid. Yes teachers sometimes work in bad conditions. But I believe it is the state who must step in to solve those problems, not the unions. What all these unionists want is bigger wages; to them it is all about the money and nothing else.
Learners: we as pupils should also be passionate, dedicated and hard-working. We should be diligent and take every opportunity that comes in our way as we strive to excel in all that we do. Giving teachers and schools a hard time is not going to enhance our learning in any way; it will only make it dreadful. After all, education is the key that will change our lives for the better.
In conclusion, the state should learn that pumping money into problems will not solve anything. Yes the mud schools in the Eastern Cape need to be eradicated with money. Yes equipping schools with computers and science labs need money. But the state should be more proactive in making sure that they get what they pay for because there are a few individuals who enrich themselves for a living. The development and implementation of policies should be aligned with the needs of the people. Currently I think education policy makers are not aware of what is going on the ground. For example why is it that pupils who failed matric cannot repeat it again on a full time basis? Clearly there is something wrong because these candidates do want to repeat. One can just see how private colleges that offer matric re-write are filled with thousands of children who want a second chance. Why is it that the government fails to see this?
Former American president John F Kennedy said “ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country”. And that is exactly what we, as South Africans should do. We need to start a process of introspection so as to see what each of us can give to our country, not what we can take from it. We need to develop a national pride and consciousness because great countries solve their problems TOGETHER. It’s not up to politicians, business organisations, unionists, and church leaders etc. to fix our education system. It is up to all of us, and we should all play our role in doing our part.
The South African education crisis can and will be fixed.