Mayor: Ekurhuleni needs its own university

2015-06-17 18:34

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Germiston - A metro city such as Ekurhuleni with a population of more than three million people deserves its own university, its Mayor Mondli Gungubele says.

"It's unthinkable that conventionally a city like ours with its population, being a manufacturing capital of Africa, hosting the busiest airport in Africa, being the aviation capital of Africa... not to have a university is unthinkable," said Gungubele.

He described the level of education in his city and in South Africa as a "challenge" mainly because of the quality of educators available to primary and high school pupils.

"I think the system of education has improved but my sense is that the standard of educators, the infrastructure [and] the mindset is not yet giving us the kind of education one would prefer."

He said less attention was being paid to language competency and most pupils were being allowed to get away with having a low proficiency in the main medium of instruction.

"During our time, English being the main medium of instruction, every teacher was an English teacher. Whether you teach maths, whether you teach physics, marks were taken away for language defect," he said.

Mayor was a teacher

Before joining the political struggle, Gungubele was a high school maths and physics teacher. He is also a qualified nurse and a Unisa BCom Law graduate.

"The problem with this type of education is, you get an A in accounting and you get to a [working] place and you can't formulate a report, you cannot do a sound critique which is weighty and easy to follow."

He said it was not surprising that a third of tertiary students dropped out in their first year of university because they were probably struggling with language proficiency at a tertiary level.

"... A lot of our kids who are brilliant are dropping out purely because of language.

"Remember, we were oppressed and our languages were suppressed, so they were never developed to be mediums of instructions to make you an academic.

"But now we are caught between asserting our languages and at the same time using English, and there's no language in which we become competent and that affects our development very, very badly," Gungubele said.

Teachers needed to view their jobs not only as a form of employment, he said, because it was their responsibility to improve their quality of teaching.

But Gungubele also criticised the education department's approach to early childhood development (ECD).

"I don't think it focuses on the right areas. Those Grade R children are not the type of children you want to stand in front of and teach lessons in many things. I think we need infrastructure at that early level that helps to develop confidence of our kids, self-belief, cognitive capabilities, self-co-ordination and so on."

Motshekga on right track

He praised Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga for introducing the Annual National Assessments (ANAs), saying it gave the education system a future.

ANAs are standardised national assessments in literacy and numeracy for grades one and three and languages and mathematics in grades four to six. The assessments are supplied by the department and are carried out and marked by the schools as well as internal moderators.

"... She commissioned an investigation at the primary level and came out with scary findings that one third of our kids are illiterate, innumerate. Very scary results at a primary level in 2010. That was a very bad story."

He said Motshekga had managed to grasp what was required from her department and should be supported in her efforts.

"... I think if she can be supported for quite some time [to come], our education has got a future, because you can have as many expensive universities as you want, you can have as many equipped FETs as you want, if the foundation at the primary level does not exist it is not going to take you anywhere."

Lowering academic standards won't serve youth

Although Motshekga was doing some things right, Gungubele emphasised that the lowering of academic standards would not serve the youth or the country.

"I don't believe that transformation of South Africa is by lowering the standard so that all of us have got certificates, that is not transformation.

"Transformation of South Africa is [done] by introducing mechanisms that help everybody to achieve the highest level, which is world class, because at the end of the day what we achieve from the point of education must help us compete with the world."

Read more on:    mondli gungubele  |  johannesburg  |  education

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