Barriers to learning

2017-05-10 06:00

FREEDOM Day is an important and historical day on the South African calendar.

It is only fitting that we commemorate it correctly so that we realise our vision of attaining a better life for all who live in South Africa.

We need to deepen the understanding of democracy and rededicate ourselves to social cohesion and nation-building.

Accordingly, Grade 9 pupils from Nizamia Islamic School visited Carisbrooke Primary School outside Ixopo as part of our outreach and social responsibility programme.

The pupils at Carisbrooke were given a hot meal, a pencil case with some stationery in it, a blanket and some tinned food to take home. The surplus blankets and tinned food were distributed in the community around the school.

The significance of Carisbrooke Primary School is that it was founded by Dr Alan Paton, who wrote the world-renowned book Cry, The Beloved Country.

We took our Grade 9 pupils to a rural school to draw attention to the inequalities in our education system and to highlight the barriers in the education system for rural children to learn with dignity.

The school is undergoing renovations and some new structures are being built after the first lady of KwaZulu-Natal, Thembeka Mchunu, being a former pupil of the school, asked the Department of Education to assist in improving the poor infrastructure there. This improvement of the buildings was long overdue.

On some of our previous visits to the school, we were saddened to see the challenging conditions under which these rural children were learning.

According to reports, many rural schools in the poorest areas of our country have no water supply, libraries, science laboratories, electricity or proper toilets. In many of these rural schools, children still use pit toilets.

Learning is difficult for a hungry, malnourished child with no shoes who has the added burden of having to walk a long distance to school.

Despite government policies, the huge financial budget allocated to education, the resources and structures to alleviate poverty and improve the quality of education, much more needs to be done in order to provide quality education for rural children — the poorest of the poor.

The government has a constitutional responsibility to uplift rural schools and provide quality education to these children.

The most heart-breaking result of the widespread corruption in some government departments and the political issues we are witnessing and experiencing in our country is that the less privileged or poor people bear the brunt of the mismanagement of funds, the lack of service delivery, the deficiencies in the government’s administration practices and the dishonesty.

Their children will not be able to develop their skills or improve their know-ledge base in order to compete in the broader world.

To break the cycle of poverty, meagre wages, unemployment and homelessness, the government needs to focus urgently on rural schools.

Against this background, it was good to see the renovations being carried out and some new structures being built.

The guest of honour at the event was Sonia Haynes, a district official representing pupils with special needs.

In her speech, she highlighted the barriers to education.

She said that these are not only related to physical disabilities but also to language, unemployment, hunger and a lack of facilities. Haynes stated that without meeting the psychosocial needs of the pupils, it will be difficult for them to pass matric and go to university.

Unless we can figure out a way to bypass and eradicate these barriers to learning, rural schools will remain sub-standard and, in some instances, completely dysfunctional.

Educationalists, politicians and the Department of Education need to find solutions to help disadvantaged pupils overcome key barriers to learning.

The failure to take into account the needs of the pupils and teachers will make the primary function of a school almost impossible.

Any system of education that disregards the needs of teachers or pupils is bound to miscarry as learning and teaching will not take place.

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