Pupils Speak Out: Not all public schools have the resources that my school has

Atiyya Patel says her school allows for Islamic and secular education to be taught under one roof, while making provisions for Islamic rules. (Akhtar Soomro, Reuters)

Atiyya Patel says her school allows for Islamic and secular education to be taught under one roof, while making provisions for Islamic rules. (Akhtar Soomro, Reuters)

The article you are about to read is part of a weekly series of comment pieces written by pupils about the problems they encounter in their schools. The series offers pupils a chance to be part of the debate about South Africa’s education system.

I am 16 years old and a proud learner of Nur-ul-iman Muslim School in Rustenburg in the North West. My school is semi-private and was established to educate Muslim children in Islamic knowledge, as well as secular knowledge, under one institution.

We are different from public schools when it comes to uniforms, school times, certain school rules, and generally the atmosphere. Our classes are not as crowded as public schools. Our uniforms and school rules conform to the rules of Islam. Our school times are longer due to the Islamic subjects taught. Like every school Nur-ul-imaan is dedicated to imparting knowledge and as our motto goes, “Under the light of faith, we educate”.

But not all public schools have the resources that my school has and I have concerns about the education system in South Africa.

Adequately qualified teachers should be provided, teachers who are capable of handling teenagers effectively. In today’s day and age this is particularly important, as adolescents should know their place in the classroom. 

When an inexperienced teacher is put into a classroom full of teenagers he/she is likely to be put to the test by a classroom full of hormonal teenagers just waiting to prove themselves to their friends. In some cases adolescents have actually physically abused teachers!

The department should take extra care of sports in order to ensure all schools are participating in physical education (PE). The department should be firm in ensuring that Muslim schools provide the proper facilities for girls doing sport. 

Girls sporting facilities in Muslim schools tend to be neglected as Muslim girls need to be dressed appropriately according to the laws of Islam and should perform PE activities among females only in a separate facility. 

This does not mean that Muslim girls cannot play sport. We are not oppressed and are allowed to partake in sports. There is often no separate sports ground or field for girls to partake in PE and thus proper facilities should be provided. 

Muslim pupils simply cannot be deprived of these due to it being an “inconvenience” to the PE teacher, school or department.

Behavioural issues
Government should consider reintroducing corporal punishment because of the growing amount of rude, uncontrollable, intoxicated, arrogant and generally pessimistic South African teens. A professional and adequately trained psychologist or guidance counselor in all schools is a viable alternative. 

But not all schools have a guidance counselor.

The life orientation (LO) teacher is expected to cover LO work, PE as well as guidance for pupils. The guidance and counseling part is neglected. Guidance counselors can help address problems that affect pupils such as substance abuse, peer pressure, teen pregnancies, HIV/Aids, domestic violence and subject combinations. 

Bad behavior displayed by pupils such as bullying, rudeness and substance abuse are often due to emotional problems like domestic violence, grief over the death of a friend or relative and peer pressure. 

This behavior can help be stopped with guidance counseling. Counseling has been proven to be effective in schools and yield positive results like higher marks, better concentration, and discipline.

Many South African pupils have almost no sense of patriotism but they should still be encouraged to serve their country. They can get involved through campaigns that instill a sense of South African identity and encourage loyalty and eagerness to help build a better South Africa. An example of one of these campaigns is joining the South African Defence Force. 

When people have no patriotism they lose their sense of identity and belonging and begin to think they belong to a particular race rather than a nationality which leads to racism. Without patriotism, we attack the government rather than help implement solutions, politicians bicker in their struggle for power, and citizens sit back, criticise and mock each other. 

Patriotism brings unity and with unity so much more can be accomplished.

Fancy private schools that use digital devices in their classrooms for education widen the gap between rich and poor. A solution could be trying to make the same level of education available to all with a higher education budget and fundraising for disadvantaged schools so they can also have the same technology in their classrooms.

Bullying is all too common and needs to be put to a stop using all available resources like guidance counselors, team building, vigilant teachers and strong repercussions for any pupil caught bullying.

Gender discrimination
Gender discrimination is evident in schools. By gender discrimination I mean teachers delivering harsh punishments to girls breaking rules as it is considered “unladylike”. Boys gallivant around while teachers gently sigh: “Ah, but boys will be boys”. As a proud feminist I am deeply disturbed by this 14th-century mode of thinking.

The high school dropout rate is alarming and is definitely linked to teenage pregnancies, substance abuse in schools as well as peer pressure.

The increase of immigrants in South Africa presents a perceived problem in public schools as poor and uneducated South Africans remain neglected in townships while immigrants appear to crowd up the classrooms. This has resulted in xenophobic attitudes in schools, which is simply unacceptable because we are supposed to be a rainbow nation.

As a nation, we have our work cut out for us. Political parties are engrossed in their own petty affairs while the education system is neglected. Little do we realize the pen is sharper than the sword. I often dream of a South African Napoleon to start a revolution that is desperately needed in South Africa before it becomes a dark and irrelevant part of the world.

*The Mail & Guardian got written consent from the author’s mother to use the author’s real name.



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