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The Value of Education...Today

13 January 2014, 12:47

On the 6 January 2014, the basic education department’s Angie Motshekga made what could possibly have been the worst decision in the history of her career. She allowed whoever dressed her to adorn her with a black and white stripped jacket, the kind not so different from those worn by the really old movie villain’s serving time while Elvis Presley sings a little jingle to express their sadness.

Well, that and the whole announcement of the 2013 Matric results of the public sector which has been holding some serious real estate on the headlines of both social media and news stations for far longer than they were even given a set date release.

Funny that, don’t you think?

I like to think of myself as open-minded. So come one, come all: ghosts, aliens, faeries, zombies, magic, and fortune tellers. I’ll take it all in before I go about thinking nothing’s around, better safe than left probed, possessed, vanished or in this case fooled.

In one of the articles I came across in SA Breaking news where they were already covering the release of the ever efficient private sector’s release of results, which proved as always to be outstanding and ‘not to be compared to the public standard’. But aside from covering the success of the private sector and how unfair that side of things always is, I was surprised to find a prediction of the public sector’s pass rate being at 75% [missed it by 3.2%... oh well].

For a department struggling with teacher abandonment, funding mismanagement and lack of care shown to pupils, shown by how ‘eager’ they seem to be when providing them with study materials, I find this kind of prediction a bit of a stretch. Of course you could take into account the students themselves, or at least the ones who stick it out and actually work instead of wait for the government to carry them through, but even then they still have the lack or limitation of resources with a horrible syllabus that doesn’t really challenge or enhance. Couple that with the poor requirement of what’s needed to pass, which doesn’t inspire much desire to even try harder, as well as the growing awareness they are forced to face as they are exposed to the world they face.

Whether it be for further education, immediate job hunting or simply to see what the other side looks like, those children [and yes that is what they still are] with their endless access to the internet or other places they go to are given the overload of information and news that has just grown more louder after the release of the results.

Those students took a peak to the other side and heard what the adults were saying and when the adults say that the value of a matric certificate is practically the equivalent of very expensive tax-funded toilet paper accompanied by an individual that barely has the skills to operate the coffee machine let alone the scanner, obviously the motivation for ‘giving your best’ isn’t really fired up unless you are a true die-hard. So where then does that leave such a prediction of 75%?

Okay, granted today’s coffee machines are practically robots that all but converse with you [in full sentences], the fact remains that students are leaving school with deceivingly good marks only to land up in the workplace ‘ill-equipped’ as the business markets would say.

An article in Fin24 addresses these points and even reveals that the Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Sacci) are concerned of the level of standard the students are provided with and who could blame them if our education standard can’t even be compared to an international level, a level we so adamantly want to enter and hold our own on.

There’s a reason the private schools have exchange programs and we don’t. Any attempt by one of our public schools would only end badly. If it isn’t a straight ‘No' [with possible laughter in the back as all the school council members have a laugh at the syllabus you kindly sent to them to ‘enhance your chances’] and turns out to be a yes due to some favors being called in, these are the most likely things I think will occur to those candidate’s.

The South African candidate will:

a)      Burn out trying to compete and just run home, or off a bridge due to the ridicule he’ll have received by his global peers of the apparent same year of schooling,

b)      Barely make it, be sent back for his own safety and promptly transfer to a private school,

c)       Actually survive, find a way to stay and we are likely never to see that student again.

The international candidate will:

a)      If curious and staunch enough, stick it out and make it a holiday experience, a good joke to the folks back home,

b)      Get on the first flight out after the first week, having been to school one or two days and deciding seeing the lions were a better use of time. [So, basically (a) with fewer expenses…]

Now these are just my own assumptions and guesses and I would welcome anyone to prove me wrong, because it’s those kids that are our saving grace for the future, the ones who will have the tools to dig our sinking country from the mud. The only question is, will they?

Because I’ll be honest, I wouldn’t, not for a system I was forced to live 12 years of my life trying to cope with. A system that changed more times than the ANC changed its heads of departments, as required by both strong ethical requirement and constitutional law, a system that de-evolved so badly from being about the development of young minds, to that of being a tool for a political game of chess. I’m not hero-material for that.

Sure, given the opportunity I’d sponsor any young mind with the passion and the determination to rise above the raw deal they were given and do exactly that. Give them the chance to prove the Solidarity Research Institute (SRI) local labor markets that even if they view them a financial risk to hire, it would be one with high returns.

But the question will always remain, will they dig a failing system that continues to dig itself deeper into ground, stubbornly holding on to greedy, politically-driven goals out? And if they do start, when is enough? Because just like me, the youth that now enters the world that couldn’t give two sticks about their shiny new NSC piece of paper, are also human and every human is known to have their limits.

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