As unfashionable as education in South Africa?

Ever felt you were being accused of loving school/education? Do you recognise this conversation?

A: So are you starting work next year?
B: No. I would like to study further?
A: (disappointed tone) But why, you already have your diploma/degree?
Some former inmates have more status in our communities than students. Such is the blatant disregard for the importance of education in our society. More than 11 000 teachers in the Eastern Cape, that Province where Mandela, Tambo and Mbeki have their umbilical cords buried, could lose their jobs next year due to ‘a financial shortfall’ reports the City Press on 22 Sept 2012. Mind you there are vacant positions in that province at the moment.
I need not elaborate on the Limpopo textbook fiasco under the sentry of Minister Angie ‘I don’t deliver’ Motshekga. The shocking and lacklustre response by government to the crisis in some parts of the Northern Cape, where more than 50 schools in one district have been closed due to community unrest over issues that include demanding a road, adds to the misery. The Learners Boulevard of dreams will be destroyed and full of potholes by the time the situation is brought to order in that part of the country. Premier of the Western Cape Helen ‘My real ambition is to be Ma Brrr’s back-up singer” Zille’s response to the education crisis in her province has been to call for the closure schools; at least she is no longer referring to learners from the Eastern Cape as refugees these days.
I would take comfort if these were isolated incidents but the icy truth is that these incidents are merely pus-filled sores that are symptoms of a dangerous cANCer affecting our education system. The Annual National Examinations(ANA) , a genius and much welcomed assessment of the education system introduced by Ma Angie in 2011 revealed the following:
In Grade 3, the national average performance in Literacy, stands at 35%. In Numeracy our learners are performing at an average of 28%. In Grade 6, the national average performance in Languages is 28%. For Mathematics, the average performance is 30%. Provincial performance in these two areas ranges between 20% and 41%, the highest being the Western Cape, and the lowest being Mpumalanga. In terms of the different levels of performance, in Grade 3, 47% of learners achieved above 35% in Literacy, and 34% of learners achieved above 35% in numeracy. In the case of Grade 6, 30% of learners achieved above 35% in Languages, and 31% of learners achieved above 35% in Mathematics.
In case you yourself are a product of a somewhat pathetic education system I will simplify the percentages for the benefit of us all. Our learners can neither read nor write at the expected level. Thankfully ma Angie promised interventions, I sincerely hope these are underway as I type.
“I do not trust a system that makes it possible for a child to pass Grade 12 with 30% in some subjects and 40% in other subjects. I would be filled with fear when I discover that you can get 32% in mathematics and 27% in physical science and still get an official document that says you can continue to study towards a Bachelor’s degree at university” (Prof Jansen,  2012). Quickly scroll up to the ANA results and see if you are surprised by the reality that this Professor detests so much. Forget the fact that half the learners who do Grade 1 do not finish Grade 12. Ask yourself is the qualification that those who do finish receive worth the glossy paper it is written on?
 I think I must stop with the criticism now, after all our education does not train us to maintain an attention span that goes beyond three hundred seconds. Issues pertaining to how the knowledge being produced in democratic South Africa is very much the same as the knowledge production of 1993, 1983 and 1883 will be discussed in a follow up blog
Constructive critique
The difference between bashing and offering a critique lies in an analysis of solutions to the highlighted problems.
1.      Choose a model of education that is contextually relevant and viable. Implement it and see it run through  from Grade 1-12. We really have to stop changing the system with every minister. OBE>CAPS>some other catchy acronym.
2.      Continuously assess both the implementation and outcome of the model.
3.      Have proper training in the model. Pay the teachers and get the unions to allow them to cut their holidays short and learn the system as opposed to the silly workshops where teachers leave learners unattended only to come back with a little bit of knowledge, which as we know is a dangerous thing .
4.      Seamless cooperation between the departments of education and labour should be ensured. To avoid the waste of money, resources, time, skill and opportunity that results in thousands of postgraduate studies with qualifications that are not congruent with the job market.
5.      I am no educationalist. There are plenty of people in the field who have the answers. Some are already working for the department. Thus the real problem is political will and to paraphrase Biko ‘we get the leaders that we deserve’. It is up to you to borrow your power to people and parties with an interest in recognising mistakes and fixing them.

2 thoughts on “As unfashionable as education in South Africa?

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