Our preoccupation with ensuring quality education for our children is borne of various studies that prove beyond doubt that only education is a gateway to a better future. Let me share some of the international and local studies on the effect of quality basic education on society.
Empowering the girl child
The economic and personal empowerment that education provides allows women and girls to make healthier choices for themselves and their families.
The United Nations Population Fund says the benefits of education for girls include a reduction in poverty and an improvement in the health of women and their children, as well as the potential to reduce the impact of HIV/Aids (2010).
According to the Bread for the World Hunger Report of 2005, expanding education for girls is also one of the most powerful ways of fighting hunger. The report concludes that gains in women’s education made the most significant difference in reducing malnutrition, even outperforming a simple increase in the availability of food.
Improved child survival and maternal health
World Bank research in 2004 showed that the child of an educated mother is more than twice more likely to survive to the age of five than one born to an uneducated mother. Educated mothers are also 50% more likely than mothers with no schooling to immunise their children against diseases.
Fight against HIV/Aids
A report by the Global Campaign for Education (2004) asserts that educated people are healthier people.
HIV/Aids infection rates are halved among young people who finish primary school. So if every child received a complete primary school education, at least 7?million new cases of HIV could be prevented in the course of a decade.
Fighting poverty and spurring economic growth
Education is a prerequisite for tackling poverty and promoting short- and long-term economic growth. No country has achieved continuous and rapid economic growth without at least 40% of adults being able to read and write (GCE, 2010).
At an individual level, a person’s earnings increase with each additional year of schooling they receive. This is especially true for additional years of higher education.
So, people who are educated are able to earn more money and support their families, which helps economies to grow faster and poverty rates to decline.
A foundation for building peace
Education is an essential building block in the development of an inclusive and peaceful democratic society. According to a report by Save the Children (2009), every year of schooling decreases a male’s chance of engaging in violent conflict by 20%.
Most importantly, we want to demonstrate that the legacy of apartheid can no longer continue to be an albatross around the necks of the poor.
Our mandate as government is to once and for all implement the rallying call of the Freedom Charter which proclaimed boldly that “The doors of learning and culture shall be opened to all”.
Some people may argue that we have had 20 years to do what we are doing today. The reality is that 20 years in the life of an individual is a long time but in a life of a nation, it is a very short time.
Since the advent of democracy in 1994, only one generation has been produced by our new education system that was introduced in 1996.
This year marks a turning point as we finally implement the Curriculum Assessment Policy Statements throughout our schooling system. Good luck to the matric class of 2014. And, to their mothers, fathers and guardians, I send a smile of solidarity.
Motshekga is minister of basic education