Education: South Africa Failing Her Youth

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Popular cartoonist, Zapiro's depiction of Angie Motshekga, South African Minister of Basic Education.

Popular cartoonist, Zapiro’s depiction of Angie Motshekga, South African Minister of Basic Education.

In 2014, 20 years after our first democratic election...we still have children who have nothing but this sorry excuse for an education.

In 2014, 20 years after our first democratic election…we still have children who have nothing but this sorry excuse for an education.

Without a quality education, we trap these young, innocent lives into this fate

Without a quality education, we trap these young, innocent lives into this fate

Education. While I couldn’t be more amped that I’ve finally reached the end of my high school career, the long school hours, rules and restrictions …it cannot be said that I have hated school. In fact, education is something which I hold dearly in my heart, particularly as a young African.

Too many gaping holes have been made in our development as a continent, leaving us unequipped for the journey to technological, scientific and economic advancement which the rest of the world has long embarked on.
Recently, I read an article about a town called Kuruman, whereby the local people, in the frustration of poor service delivery and the pitiable state of their roads led to the “No Roads, No School” protest. “The pupils were stopped from attending school when they returned from the winter holidays by angry community members demanding tarred roads.”

As it stands, “The Northern Cape “no road, no school” protest will cost about 16 000 pupils a year of learning after a decision was taken that they will repeat their classes in 2015,” notes Poloko Tau of City Press. As a matriculant, myself, I cannot imagine the implications of these protests on learners who are meant to be preparing for their final examinations- most of which are needed by universities for official acceptance.

It puzzles me even more, that the Department of Education could allow this great misfortune to be dealt to innocent learners. But then again, the South African Department of Education has often failed to be vigilant in upholding the standard of excellence when it came to matriculants or any grades, for that matter.
I speak with such open disdain because these are futures they are messing with and it could have been my future. This is not the first time we see the value of education being overlooked in our country, and whoever disagrees can kindly go back to review the 30% which is required for a pass in this country (note Zapiro’s cartoon above).

This is what the Minister of Higher Education, Blade Nzimande, had to say in his justification for the 30% pass requirement.
“What do we do with those who don’t get 50%?” he told a press briefing on post-school opportunities for learning in Pretoria.”There is no dustbin where a human being goes.”
He said South Africa was becoming a “dangerously elitist” country if it was considering “throwing away half of our young people” who did not achieve a 50% matric pass.

Really? The gaping flaw in this kind thinking should not even need be pointed out by a seventeen year old on her blog in order to highlight its down-right absurdity! Does passing matric with a 30% make one brighter than if they had been failed with the same mark? What doctor would you allow to operate on you if he only knew 30% of what he was doing? Lowering the bar doesn’t make you any better, it does nothing but give an illusion of excellence which, as in this instance, no one else in the world believes. *Note that the weights Motshekga is lifting so effortlessly in the cartoon are simply balloons – see the Eezi-inflate pump lying on the floor?

What this does, this constantly depreciating value of public education, is harvest an unskilled, unemployable and incompetent youth. These young people are then set free into the competitive professional world, where essentially they are “tossed into dustbins” in any case, seeing that universities don’t give 30-40% so much as a glance. They are left to sit at home- jobless, resort to petty crimes, to take up posts on pavements holding up sympathy-boards at the ages of 30 to 68.

So what are the possible solutions here?

1) The pass rate needs to be on par with the rest of the international community’s 50%. If you make it, great. If you don’t, stay another year, repeat the work until you get better grades. And if it so happens that too many of our learners are failing to meet this standard, Mr and Ms Minister, do your jobs and find out what the problem is. Improve the quality of education, train teachers better, renovate dilapidated schools, introduce milestones and incentives, have inspectors who actually ensure there is progress in schools, get rid of lazy educators who are not doing their jobs… Come on! I’m seventeen, this is not my job.

2) When there are strikes and protests of whatever nature, leave children out of it. Stay away from work if you must but no child’s education should ever be jeopardised by politics or anything else, for that matter.

3) If the same problem continually marginalises innocent people, particularly children, under leadership of one of your ministers, Mr President, especially five years after they were elected into office…it doesn’t matter how far back you two go, if they can’t take the heat, they ought to be chucked out of the kitchen.

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