Poor schooling adds up to poor confidence

2012-08-04 11:09

Vangile Bingma

Having exited township schooling (Leshata Secondary School in Orange Farm ) almost a decade ago, the shortage of books is not new to me.

Sharing books was an inconvenience, but it was a reality. Also, in standard 6 (now grade 8) we spent hours copying notes from the blackboard for the late Ms Mahlangu’s subject because we did not have a textbook. Not ideal, as it cut into teaching time, but we managed.

During my late high school years my school day started at 7am with a morning class and ended at 5pm with an afternoon study class. Mr Molelekoa made sure of that!

Committed teachers, who understood the challenges we would have to contend with post-matric, invested far more than was required, even giving Saturday classes. I do not romanticise those experiences, but I drew many lessons; discipline is perhaps the most important of all.

I just want to highlight one thing for the honourable minister: the impact of a poor basic education on an individual’s confidence to function in everyday life.

I have encountered and continue to see it daily in different forms.

Many things can result from a lack of confidence, Minister, and I want to mention two.

A lack of confidence may mean one becomes defensive, destructive, counter-productive and inefficient.

Some individuals may pretend to know what they are doing when they don’t, with devastating consequences for those involved.

On the other hand, an individual may constantly second-guess whether what they are doing is the right thing.

In the latter case, one may be pushed to compensate for the deficit by re-educating him or herself. A good thing, but a waste of time in a fast-paced world.

This individual is likely to survive and get somewhere, but the process in torturous.

Now, if we argue that economic growth and the maintenance of South Africa’s young democracy require an unwavering commitment to equipping citizens with the necessary skills to become active participants in the development of the country, how does poor schooling aid that process?

With its many problems (many scholars have written about its adverse impact on individuals), schooling provides a foothold through which individuals can access further training and capacity-building programmes for different opportunities.

However, poor schooling means many young people exit the system with little basic knowledge which is required to function in a complex world, even though these people are no less gifted than their peers.

What we need to think about, Madam Minister, is the long-term impact of a poor basic education on individuals who are required to function optimally in a globalising, fast-paced and unforgiving world. Non-delivery of textbooks is just one element in a long process that has lifetime consequences not just for individuals, but for the country as a whole.

That should keep us awake at night! Bingma lecturers in the department of sociology at the University of Pretoria.


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