Naysayers must be ignored

2011-01-13 00:00

THE KwaZulu-Natal Department of Education got a 70,7% achievement result for the 2010 National Senior Certificate (NSC). This is supposed to be encouraging and exciting tidings under normal circumstances, but perhaps not in our kind of society — a society where some people take positive developments with a pinch of salt and negative developments or perception thereof as the

gospel truth.

The 70,7% attained by the department is not 70,7% for statistics' sake. This percentage translates to people's lives being altered for the better. These statistics mean that an indigent family in Mbazwana in Northern KwaZulu-Natal, who have spent their last cent, emptied their last bag of mealie meal and sold their last treasured cow for their daughter or son's education, will soon experience a different kind of life as a result of the success of their child.

This is the aim of the provision of accessible and quality education — that people's lives and fortunes may be changed.

And so we expected that the improved NSC results in Kwa-Zulu-Natal and elsewhere in the country were going to be welcomed as a step in the right

direction, something to be celebrated and commended by all.

As much as I am sure that the majority of South Africans celebrated at the announcements of 2010 matric results, this announcement was received with misgivings by some in our society. There are those who question the integrity and authenticity of the results and by extension our education system when the Grade 12 results were announced.

"How can it be possible," they seemed to ask, "that this government can do so well in educating and passing Grade 12 pupils in 2010?"

These are the people who did not believe the government when it proclaimed that education is now its number-one priority. As cynics will always do, they thought it was a talk shop when President Jacob Zuma gathered multitudes of principals at the ICC in Durban in August 2009 to give them their marching orders.

They thought that it was change for the sake of politics when the president separated the basic education ministry from the higher education


These people thought the Premier of KwaZulu-Natal, Dr Zweli Mkhize, was playing to the gallery when he gathered 1 500 school principals together at Maritzburg College in May 2010. The teachers persuaded themselves that Senzo Mchunu, the MEC for Education in KwaZulu-Natal, was talking nonsense when he declared: "The Department of Education in KwaZulu-Natal is dedicated to service and per- formance beyond the call of


These cynics misread and misunderstood unannounced districts visits by Mchunu as visits just for their own sake. All the above mentioned and all other interventions by the national and provincial government were, according to our naysayers, not enough to bear the desired results, or so they hoped.

But with concerted efforts from the department, community members, pupils, teachers, principals and all those with an interest in education, the department has been able to achieve a 70,7% achievement result.

All this notwithstanding, there is still a lot of ground to cover. This is hardly the time to sit back and bask in the glory of the 70,7% results.

Perhaps what we need to do is to pay less attention to and refuse to be distracted by those who will never be satisfied by our efforts and our success.

We need to build from the firm foundation laid and work zealously and tirelessly towards the objective of a skilled, educated and informed citizenry.

Besides, it seems as though there is no winning the hearts, minds and imagination of the sceptics.

We are damned if we do and damned if we don't. If we don't do well we are decried for "failing our children". If we do well and improve "it is too good to be true".

If we are to achieve even more in the coming years, we are going to need to ignore brinkmanship, recalcitrance and grandstanding and set our eyes firmly on the prize, which is quality education for all. Through this we hope, in the words of Nelson Mandela, that "a child of a mineworker will become the owner of the mine and this is our unwavering


• Although Sihle Mlotshwa is the deputy manager: Media and Citizen Liaison in the KwaZulu-Natal Dept of Education, he writes in his personal capacity.

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