Our schools are failing on a massive scale – Mamphela Ramphele

2013-06-20 12:19

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Government has failed South Africa’s youth through corrupt and inept management of the education system, Agang leader Mamphela Ramphele has said.

“At national government level, education is not given due priority,” she said in a speech at the opening of African Education Week in Johannesburg today.

“We are failing too many young people of our continent ... education departments are often led by the weakest ministers, need I point to South Africa?”

As a result, the country was suffering from the impact of the education system’s failure, which was on a “massive scale”.

“These collective failures are just a symptom of what’s happening to our country,” she said.

Ramphele, a former vice-chancellor of the University of Cape Town, said the class of 1976 said no to a system that sought to undermine it.

Today, the education system was worse in many ways compared with 1976, with the lack of government accountability and corruption.

“Our schools are failing on a massive scale,” Ramphele said.

“We have a second-class system that accepts second-rate results.”

This failure had seen the middle and upper classes buy themselves out of the public education system, which only widened inequality.

Sixty-six percent of children who started school in 2001 had either dropped out or failed matric, she said.

Setting a pass at 30% or 40% was a symptom of the school system’s failure. Ramphele asked if a person would fly with a pilot who was only 30% competent.

The use of textbooks in schools had become a money laundering vehicle for the politically connected. Many schools had no basic services.

She said Agang would make good on one of the struggle’s core principles – quality education for all.

The soon-to-be-launched political party intended raising the minimum pass to 50%, conducting subject teacher tests, enforcing minimum standards for new teachers, allocating funding for rural schools and for scarce skills such as maths, upgrading school infrastructure, and bolstering teacher numbers.

Education was a means of lifting people out of poverty and would help tackle South Africa’s social ills.

“Together we can build an education system that restores pride,” said Ramphele.

“True freedom for all people begins with quality education.”

She said Agang would be formally launched as a political party on Saturday.

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