South Africans: Load shed your outrage over "racist" comments; there are bigger fish to fry

2015-05-10 15:56

Recently, at the DA Federal Congress the well-known journalist and writer Allister Sparks recognised Hendrik Verwoed as being an intelligent politician. Helen Zille, took the opportunity to defend Sparks. According to media reports both these have caused “outrage” on social media, with non-stop ridicule and finger pointing. Some weeks ago, Mcebo Dlamini, while still President of the Wits SRC made comments in which he indicated his admiration of some of Adolf Hitler’s qualities. Dlamini went on to say that “all white people have an element of Hitler”. This too was said to have caused much outrage. In both cases individuals used public forums to make value assessments of individuals of questionable morals. All this “outrage” over nonsensical trivialities. Why kick up a fuss about what these people think of dead tyrants and murderers? Really, South Africa? Why are the comments of these people of any significance, they are simply opinions of no consequence to anybody in any way whatsoever. There are more important things to worry about.

I would like to propose something which I believe is better cause for outrage. Please feel free to add any other outrage worthy items.

a. Our country; the bottom-feeders

The 2014/2015 Global Economic Competitiveness Index ranks South Africa 144 out of 144 countries for Maths and Science Education. I am quite surprised that in the world of today, our country could be ranked at the bottom of the barrel in anything at all! How is this even possible? What about those other countries? Yes, you know which ones I’m talking about. It is true that this list does not list every country possible, still, how could we be last out of 144 countries? Can someone tell me what’s happening in our classrooms? Why is no one kicking a fuss over this?  Not only are we possibly bottom feeders as a country, but these results suggest that instead of producing scientists, innovators and doctors, our country will be particularly adept at producing politicians in the future!

b. This graph

Dropout rates between grade 10 and grade 12, Source DBE Education Statistics in South Africa 2014

This graph shows the increasing rate of dropouts, as they tend towards 50% of enrolments. Now that is worth losing your composure over! In fact, why don’t you go ahead and break a sweat? I did. But wait, don’t spend your outrage all at once, there’s more. According to a leading researcher on the matter, Martin Gustafsson, the most cited reasons for dropouts are financial difficulty and, teenage pregnancies. Perhaps some youngsters do eventually complete their matric, who knows, but at this stage outrage legitimately turns into panic as a chain of thought now develops; teenage pregnancies (?), sexual abuse of girls, condoms and HIV(!), young fathers and child support, the poverty trap, our country’s future, flames, destruction, smoke, the end of everything in our country! Our future going down in flames? I'm completely worked-up now.

This dropout statistic has been used to argue for a grade 9 exit path for learners. It is highly refreshing that potentially workable proposals are coming forth to address the dropout rates (and other issues in the Department of Basic Education). This proposal may help direct the path of learners into vocational training colleges. Despite this, my nefarious outrage rears its ugly head at the realisation that we plan to solve the problem of high dropout rates by giving the dropouts certificates for dropping out. Besides the potential psychological impact of rewarding mediocrity, the problem with this proposal is that it seeks to remedy a symptom, and not the root cause of the problem. The cause of all our problems at basic education level is our inability to instil a joy of learning in our children and a culture of discipline in general.

The DBE and the proponents of this grade 9 exit idea have insinuated that the majority of our learners are simply incapable of passing matric. Outrage anyone?

Most of our parents probably cannot instil a joy of learning in their kids because they as products of Bantu Education may know not what that is. This responsibility now rests on the shoulders of teachers, particularly at Foundation Phase, a further burden on teachers who in many instances have inadequate resources. Our children aren’t disciplined. The question is, are our teachers and principals sufficiently rising towards this challenge? Anecdotal evidence suggests that there is not enough accountability in underserved schools; we are not adequately assessing and correcting subject content delivery especially in Foundation and Primary Schooling.

If you want to protest about something, I suggest we protest against the state of affairs in our country’s basic education. Let’s forget the "racists" and their comments (no-one benefits from making clever retorts on Twitter about "racists") and let’s stop belittling them with injured tones over coffee and social media. We need to get outraged for our children.

***My cousin is a teacher at a school in Diepkloof. The stories she tells me shock me. I sometimes help her mark exam scripts and assignments. She teaches English and Social Sciences. She has to mark 3 classes of 40 students of 3 grades of English and similarly for Social Science. That's 720 scripts, of the most shocking language, and lack of logic, far beneath what you would expect for high school kids...

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