Education is the new struggle

Khaya Dlanga: 'You need an educated work force to drive an economy of the 21st Century. ' (Victor Dlamini.,M&G)

Khaya Dlanga: 'You need an educated work force to drive an economy of the 21st Century. ' (Victor Dlamini.,M&G)

During the opening of the ANC's policy conference, President Jacob Zuma said that the ANC has three priorities: Poverty, unemployment and inequality. These are great things to focus on as a nation, but we are focusing on them by going the wrong way around. 

On Monday, I asked the following question to those who watched or listened to the president as he opened the conference: "What is the third focus area of the ANC according to Zuma? It's poverty, employment, what's the third?" 

Do you know what 90% of the responses said? "It must be education." But it wasn't. Instead, He said it's inequality. 

Well Mr President, poor education increases inequality and poverty, it also gives rise to indecent work.
So it is profoundly disturbing that the single most important factor that will create a sustainable economy for generations to come has been excluded from the top three. So this means we will continue to be proud of less than stellar results and congratulate ministers for giving our children an inferior education. Education should have been first on the list. 

Populism is not leadership. It is going for what you know will get you the loudest cheers but not necessarily the best results. A true test of leadership is making the difficult but correct choices. I would have even settled for education being number three. Saying that we need to drive the economy is not difficult; it is obvious, and it has been so for the last ten years. 

It would be completely unfair to blame the Zuma administration for the shambles that is the education department. Our education system has been in steady steep decline for the past decade. It would also be equally unfair to single out Angie, although she's the one who has been tasked with ensuring that education gets better, not worse. 

One of the ANC's policy discussion documents is called Education and Health. At the beginning of the document, the ANC starts off by patting itself on the back, "The correctness of ANC policies is one of its strengths that results from the fact that, as the oldest liberation movement in Africa, its policies are a reflection of its growth and maturation as a movement of the people of South Africa." 

Again I quote from the document, "Job creation remains the topmost priority for our country in our fight against poverty, unemployment and inequality." 

This is a good point of focus, but this is a case of putting the cart before the horse. Education must take the lead. 

According to International Research Journal of Finance and Economics, "the direct effects of education are the imparting of knowledge and skills that are associated with higher wages." Therefore if you educate your children, you automatically give them an advantage in life their parents never had and you give them a necessary skill to get them to extricate themselves out of poverty. When you fail to give them a proper education, you continue to imprison them in the vicious spiral of poverty which apartheid intended for the black child. 

Let us have a look at the countries with the most educated populations in the world and look at that against GDP per capita:

Judging by these numbers, there is a direct correlation between prosperity and education. I am not so naïve as to say that it's just about education, but education goes a very long way. 

The biggest crime in South Africa right now is the kind of education the black child is receiving. We have one of best-funded education systems in the world, yet it produces some of the world's worst results. 

You need an educated work force to drive an economy of the 21st Century. At this rate, the 21st Century is going to leave us behind. Yet it is not too late if we urgently do what we must do. 

It is at this juncture that I quote a lady I respect but am not fond of, Margaret Thatcher: "You can't enjoy the fruits of effort without first making the effort." 

Unfortunately there is no shortcut here. We have to work together as a country. 

Education has to be a collective responsibility, it can't be government's job alone. We need to understand that education is the new struggle. We need new street committees as we had in the townships and villages during the fight against apartheid. We cannot give Verwoerd a victory now. Who would have thought that the apartheid doctrine of inferior education would flourish under a black government? 

As I suggested two weeks ago, in a talk I called,South Africa's Quest for Mediocrity, let us ponder these words by Verwoerd: "There is no place for [the Bantu] in the European community above the level of certain forms of labour ... What is the use of teaching the Bantu child mathematics when it cannot use it in practice? That is quite absurd. Education must train people in accordance with their opportunities in life, according to the sphere in which they live."

Let us not unintentionally and out of pure carelessness achieve the goal of Verwoerd. We are better than this. 

Follow Khaya Dlanga on Twitter: @KhayaDlanga

Khaya Dlanga

Khaya Dlanga

Apart from seeing gym as an oppression of the unfit majority, Khaya works in the marketing and communications industry for one of the world's largest brands. Before joining the corporate world, he was in the advertising field where he won many awards, including a Cannes Gold. He was awarded Financial Mail's New Broom award in 2009, while Jeremy Maggs's "The Annual - Advertising, Media & Marketing 2008" listed him as one of the 100 most influential people in the industry. He says if you don't like his views, he has others. Read more from Khaya Dlanga

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