Tim Modise

It's time to educate the masses

2006-10-04 12:50

Tim Modise

One of the highly respected members of our society is Dr Mamphela Ramphela. A legend in her own time, she was recently honoured as a "TRAILBLAZER", an award bestowed on a member of the Black community who is the most influential director of companies listed on the Johannesburg Securities Exchange.

To many people who know her and about her, this attests to her remarkable character and influence. She, together with Steve Biko and others, founded the Black Consciousness Movement, promoted, got harassed and intimidated for it, yet went on to obtain a medical degree at the University of Natal.

She was house arrested and banished in the late seventies. She, later in the mid nineties, got appointed the first woman Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cape Town, where talents were spotted and later snapped up by the World Bank. Since then she has now become an influential person who sits on boards with market capitalisation of over 700 billion rands.

I met her recently and she still cares deeply about the country and particularly about developments in her community. We spoke about the state of public education and she later gave a talk about her passion for excellence. She bemoaned the lack of enthusiasm and desire in the education system to develop the potential of children who needed it most, the poorest and marginalised in our society.

Bad reminder

Her speech reminded me of a rather unfortunate, and to my mind, unnecessary incident at a school in the Vaal area. According to a newspaper report, teachers at Moshate High School downed chalk for the whole month of August because the principal dared cancel a Matric dance.

Another subsequent report spoke about 30% of graduates predominantly black not being able to find employment. Yet another report, based on studies conducted by Wits University, estimated that there was a 50% drop out rate in by matric, and that 80% of schools in you-know-where, were without libraries.

There are a lot of backlogs as we all know, but it is the lack of care and passion for the emancipation of children trapped in poverty that is the most disappointing.

Whilst we are still talking statistics, did you know that of South Africans above the age 20, over 65% of the white population have matric compared to 14% of their black counterparts. The government speaks about a serious skills shortage in the country and has called for those prematurely retired to come back, whilst SASOL employed over 1 500 Thai nationals because there were not enough skilled local artisans.

Poor parents

In the meantime, poor parents, let down by the system that cannot provide adequate resources timeously, and teachers who seem to have lost interest and passion for teaching, have now resorted to sending their children elsewhere. The children today are like fathers and mothers yesterday, they have to go on long distance commutes into cities and towns, where the better-off live, in search for a better education.

In other words, where schools are better resourced and white teachers are prepared to teach children of all colours. The policies and the budgets are plentiful but somehow the system is battling.

Why? If we are to achieve a modicum of success in transforming our society and "delivering a better life for all", then we will have to get the basics right.

Peter Drucker was correct when he said: "knowledge is the most democratic source of power''. Therefore the denial of educational opportunities is the most destructive force in our democracy. We should like Dr Mamphela Ramphele, require unequivocally, that everybody charged with delivering hope through education performs or ships out.

  • Tim Modise is the chairperson of the Proudly South African Campaign and hosts a weekday show on Radio 702 and Cape Talk.

  • Send your comments to Timk.

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