Meaningful contributions needed to help improve education

2017-05-12 16:15

As part of our outreach and social responsibility programme, Grade 9 pupils, from Nizamia Islamic School recently visited Carisbrooke School outside Ixopo to commemorate Freedom Day. We need to deepen the understanding of democracy and rededicate ourselves to social cohesion and nation building.

Learners at Carisbrooke were given a hot meal, a pencil case with some stationery in it, a blanket and some tin food to take home. The surplus blankets and tin food were distributed in the community around the school. The significance of Carisbrooke Primary School is that it was founded by the famous Dr Alan Paton, who wrote the world renowned book, Cry, The Beloved Country. We took our grade 9 learners to a rural school to draw attention to the inequalities in our education system and to highlight the barriers in the education system for rural children to learn with dignity. Barriers to education are not only related to physical disabilities but also to language, unemployment, hunger and lack of facilities. Without meeting the “psychosocial” needs of the students it will be difficult to pass matric and university.

Currently the school is undergoing renovations and some new structures are being built after the first lady of KwaZulu-Natal, Ms Thembeka Mchunu, being the former learner of the school, asked the Department of Education to assist in improving the poor infrastructure of the school. This improvement of the buildings was long overdue. On some of our previous visits to the school we were really saddened to see the poor learning environment and conditions under which these rural children were learning. According to reports many rural schools in the poorest areas of our country have no water supply, libraries, science laboratories, electricity and proper toilets – in many of these rural schools children still use pit toilets. Learning is difficult for a hungry, malnourished child with no shoes and with the added burden of walking a long distance to school. Despite government policies, the huge financial budget allocated to education, resources, and structures to alleviate poverty and improve the quality of education, much more needs to be done in order to provide quality education for rural children - the poorest of the poor. The two tier education system does not bode well for South Africa’s fledgling democracy and to the historically disadvantaged.

The government has a constitutional responsibility to uplift rural schools and provide quality education to the poorest children who mainly live in rural areas. The most heart-breaking result of the widespread corruption in some government departments and the political issues we are witnessing and experiencing in our country is that the less privileged or poor people bear the brunt of the mismanagement of funds, lack of service delivery, deficiencies in government’s administration practices and dishonesty. Their children will not be able to develop their skills or improve their knowledge base in order to compete in the big, broad and competitive world. In order to break the cycle of poverty, meagre or miserable wages, unemployment and homelessness the government needs to focus urgently on rural schools.

Against this background it was good to see the renovations being carried out and some new structures built. Unless we can figure out a way to bypass and eradicate these barriers to learning, rural schools will remain sub-standard and in some instances remain completely dysfunctional. Educationists, politicians, private sector and the department of Education need to find solutions to help disadvantaged students overcome key barriers to learning. Failure to take into account the needs of students or teachers, especially in rural areas, will make the primary function of a school almost impossible. Any system of education that disregards the needs of teachers or students is bound to miscarry as learning and teaching will not take place.

It is without doubt that the majority of South African school children do not receive quality education and therefore the two tier education system needs to be addressed. Failing to provide good quality education for the children of South Africa is not good for productivity and to reverse the brutal effects of apartheid. In order to correctly redress the injustices of the past and the “economic prejudice”, educational policies need to be “pro-poor”. Emphasis on education reform and transformation needs to be at the forefront of government concern. Even though the Department of Basic Education is taking significant action to improve the two tier education system, all need to make meaningful contributions to help improve education in South Africa.

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