Excellent Education will not be enough for our Children

2015-02-25 05:14

Every second weekend we see reports on how ‘south Africa’ ranks below Zimbabwe in providing quality of education, how we have slipped in rankings and how our learners are poorly performing as compared to certain third world countries. This issue continues to see a plethora of impulsive attacks directed at our government and its basic education leadership. I refer to them as impulsive as these are unsubstantiated attacks with no intention to build or pave a way going forward. All of them assume that the system is perfect. This onrush to bash assumes that those in charge are in fact the sole perpetrators of the apparent failures. This analysis fails to asses components of the system that cannot be solved by a mere provision of textbooks. This analysis blatantly omits factors that directly and indirectly affect the outcomes of education. These are components that go beyond classroom learning. Some of these are psychological factors that go hand in hand with what families feed their kids mentally and emotionally. This cocooned analysis limits itself and shies away from considering our socio-economic conditions that also directly impact on the outcomes of our education. This starved analysis rather targets those entrusted with the responsibility of managing the very flawed system. Allow me to say that this article is not aimed at cleansing our officials of their failures but to rather widen our analysis and allow for a sober and well-informed conclusion.

Over the years, the post apartheid government has been undoubtedly prioritising the education of the poor and the previously disadvantaged. This has been by fuelling budget year on year, adding more support to learners and teachers, improving on infrastructure and the education system such that it prepares and nourishes even the poorest of the poor. We have also seen this through disintegration of the education ministry into basic and higher learning so that adequate attention can be given to the education of our country’s future i.e. the youth. In 2012 alone, education accounted for the largest share of government spending. This even increased in 2013, as it accounted close to 20% of our government allocation at R207, 3 billion. This is but another illustration of how our government focuses on education. Free State, more especially under Premier Magashule and MEC Tate Makgoe has continued to prosper and assist our learners. We have seen an unprecedented awarding of bursaries and scholarships, oversees exchange programs and laptops given to our learners and students to perform well. Regardless of these efforts, our monetary input does not translate into an equal qualitative output. Our schools are still having challenges ranging from lack of resources, teenage pregnancy, drugs at schools, lack of discipline in schools and all of these affect the performance of our schools and the functioning of our basic education system at large. We will be lying to ourselves to think that the government can fight all these in the absence of families and communities.

Let’s agree that the quality of our basic education leaves a lot to be desired but in the same breath agree that our government is doing incredibly well to improve on this. An example is through the introduction of a learner friendly and indigenous-language friendly policy currently on the roll.

Even if the government was to provide superficial learner or student support, this would fall short of ensuring that our learners turn out to be the best. Excellence in provision of education is but a two way street that sees both schools and communities, especially parents playing part throughout the entire process. On average, a child spends only 6 hours of the entire 12 hour daytime at school. The rest he/she spends at home with parents. It remains the primary task of parents to educate their own children. It remains the task of parents to see to it that the formal education that teachers instil at school is put into good use by their children. This is by checking on the child’s homework, seeing to it that the child does assignments and passes at school. It’s scary that at this age and time there are parents who send their 5 year olds to school to learn but never dedicate a minute to teach them to read, write and learn after hours at home. We cannot be this unscrupulous to throw our kids into schools without at least monitoring and following up if the schools can deliver and if not then why. Parents and communities at large should take charge of their kids’ education. In 2012, the Free State department of education and the Free State Provincial government awarded laptops to students as means of simplifying learning for them as laptops are a necessity at that level. This was welcomed with warm hands by our communities as we have been pleading with the government for years. Shortly after that we heard reports of the same students selling these laptops and some even making false affidavits of stolen laptops. It saddened me to see our parents mum on this issue. It saddened me to see our communities being dead quiet on this issue. The same government that we blamed for not equipping our learners and students was again expected to inculcate responsibility on students, a part families are supposed to play.

A well-raised and best prepared learner will make the most effective use of the least our schools can offer. Not even the highest level of quality educate will prepare a poorly-nurtured learner. In essence, as communities, as families we should start spending more time reflecting and less ranting on how our education ministry is failing. We should start reflecting on how we can assist (including by constructive criticism) our government to produce competitive learners and graduates. We should understand that the quality of education is not enough to secure a bright future for a child. Our involvement cannot be a secondary role but is primarily intertwined with the part that the government plays. Even in the problem of education quality, we still have a part to play. Let’s not react to the role the government plays to prepare the future of our kids but be actively involved together with the government to ensure that our children are prepared in the best of ways.


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