Social justice education in schools necessary for change

2017-06-18 09:04

Considering recent news articles about racial statements being made by some students in South African schools, it is obvious that racial issues constantly hound and test our communities. Racism will not just disappear and therefore the teaching of social justice themes or topics in South African learning institutions like schools is very important.

We need to urgently engage effectively with the issues related to racism, sexism, classism and gender based violence with openness, honesty and sincerely. We cannot undo the effects of apartheid and our racist past overnight but we need to constantly speak to these socially destructive and self-destructive ills. Most sensible and informed people agree that racism is one of the most pressing social ills keeping us away from achieving a dignified life for all who live in South Africa.

According to researchers racism is challenging for educators to address; in fact, many educators tend to completely avoid discussions on topics such as racism, classism, and privilege and power related issues and gender based violence. However, neglecting these challenging conversations do not help students or teachers gain understandings about complex concerns, and it does nothing to help stop and prevent bigot, racist and stereotypical beliefs that may spread within the school and surrounding community.

The unfortunate racial statements being made by some learners at schools clearly demonstrate the importance to include social justice education into the syllabus. Although Life Orientation (LO) lessons speak to the issues of democracy, racism, gender based violence and classism, a more detail and deeper study needs to be done. A comprehensive approach is needed to promote respect for cultural, religious, racial differences and nation building.

Most sensible and informed people agree that racism is one of the most pressing social ills keeping us away from achieving a dignified life for all who live in South Africa.

The department of education needs to create and develop workshops for teachers to address and prevent racism in schools. I know teachers are overwhelmed and overloaded with administrative duties, but teaching about social cohesion, co-existence, diversity, understanding democracy and social responsibility is also important. In a country with such huge inequalities, imbalances and as we still heal from the effects of apartheid, to teach about Human Right is just as important as other subjects.

Additionally, wide-ranging intervention, counselling and support services in the school environment that are designed at preventing racial tensions, bullying and superiority complex should be implemented. Schools must undertake a large responsibility for proactively contributing to social cohesion, the understanding of democracy and promote human dignity and development in our schools and communities.

One of the major dilemmas of our transformation process is how to address the legacy of unjust policies like racism. The challenge that these socially constructed beliefs such as discrimination, prejudice and bigotry poses to South Africa and the reconciliation efforts cannot be over-stressed, therefore every effort must be made to address these social ills.

Until we address the social divisions as a result of apartheid our journey for Ubuntu, diversity, reconciliation, nation building and peace will likely remain elusive. Consistent denunciation of racism by educators, political, community and religious leaders and sporting heroes would be valuable and beneficial in promoting social cohesion and coexistence. Racism is a scourge and must be tackled at every level of society- School, university, home and places of worship. Emphasis on quality education for all and education reform and transformation needs to be at the forefront of educationists, government, business sector and civil society.

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