Focus on Grade R, not free higher education

Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga Photo: Daily Sun
Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga Photo: Daily Sun

In Thursday night's State of the Nation Address President Cyril Ramaphosa said "if we are to ensure that within the next decade, every 10-year-old will be able to read for meaning, we will need to mobilise the entire nation behind a massive reading campaign.

A National Reading Coalition will be launched to "coordinate this national effort".

It's a step in the right direction certainly. Yet, in June 2019, Grade R is not compulsory in our country. Why? I fail to understand this. If compulsory schooling at the start of the foundation phase has still not happened, how the hell do we get a massive reading campaign off the ground?

Why are we still campaigning to bring early childhood development (ECD) and Grade R teachers into the formal education fold?

Elijah Mhlanga, national spokesperson for the department of basic education, told IOL earlier this month that "Grade R is part of the foundation phase and therefore adheres to all relevant aspects of the curriculum, norms and standards" and that "as and when the Basic Education Laws Amendment Bill is promulgated, Grade R will become a compulsory initial grade in the foundation phase".

Why has this not happened yet?

"All foundation and intermediate phase teachers are to be trained to teach reading in English and the African languages, and we are training and deploying a cohort of experienced coaches to provide high quality on-site support to teachers…

"Government is also introducing subjects like coding and data analytics at a primary school level," Ramaphosa went on to say.

How are we going to prepare our young people for the jobs of the future when we are STILL battling with basics? Why are we still here?

Free education at tertiary level means nothing if we can't hack it at foundation phase level. Thank goodness for the students who have fought for and continue to fight for free education. But what about the little ones?  

Yes, the ones whose parents may not be able to read but who also want the best for their kids. Why are we not focusing on that? How much longer do they have to wait?

Why are we not fighting harder for our young children?

Grade R… and Grade RR that many of our former model C and private schools do have as entry (well, it is preferred anyway) should be compulsory for everyone. FOR EVERYONE.

If we want free education, why are we not starting there? At the foundation of where our young ones learn. 

I fail to see how we can move on if we do not get this right. Maybe if we started at the beginning, our kids wouldn't have to play catch up so hard further down the line.


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