It was a school year from hell. Classrooms remained empty for weeks on end, with striking teachers calling for higher salaries.
But then the matric pass rate was released: a so-called miracle of 67,8 per cent and 100 000 more successful matrics than the previous year.
“A farce” is what Professor Jonathan Jansen, vice-chancellor of the University of the Free State, calls the events of 2010.
He’s clearly angry as he speaks in his large office on campus. “How is it possible? And then the officials won’t even agree with me there’s a crisis in our education system.”
It’s South Africans’ indifference to mediocrity that results in up to two-thirds of first-year university students failing these days, he adds.
The stocky academic spent years teaching at various schools in the Western Cape before becoming head of the University of Pretoria’s education department. After that he took over the reins at the University of the Free State. But he sees himself first and foremost as a teacher. And the parlous state of the South African education system has left him disheartened.
He lists the problems: the curriculum is so complicated even teachers don’t understand it; politicians are too ignorant and selfish to improve things and previously disadvantaged schools are falling further behind.
But Professor Jansen isn’t the kind to sit and watch as things go down the drain. He believes you must make a difference wherever you are.
Shortly after arriving at the University of the Free State he took 21 of the province’s schools under the university’s wing. They make sure these schools have textbooks, buildings are maintained, teachers understand the curriculum and learners are at school every day.
If only the department of education would follow his example.
Read the full interview in YOU, 7 April 2011.