Khaya Dlanga: Our education is designed to cripple

The quality of our education is not only designed to cripple children’s futures, but has the potential to threaten the freedom that was fought for and the rise of populism. Economic Freedom Fighters leader Julius Malema’s rhetoric is not accepted by South Africans by mistake; the worse the education we continue to impart, the more Malema will make sense to the forgotten because poor education creates a lost class. It is a class that has the right to be angry because it realises the country’s potential.

We are breeding a nation of angry underachievers. Yet we come from a generation of overachievers. It is disgusting. Everyone was shocked to find out that business executives have placed South Africa’s maths and science education last out of 148 countries. I would hate for us to have yet another task team try to figure out what is wrong. The government knows what it needs to fix.

The president has named education as one of the top five priorities he intends to deal with over the next few years. But he said the same thing last year. The reason for that is not just to have educated citizens, but because educated people mean a better workforce and a stronger economy.

South Africa’s matric results have been improving over the past few years, something the government and various stakeholders have lauded. So why are we not able to compete with the world? We should not be satisfied with keeping up appearances and making ourselves look good at home. We are not the competition, it is the rest of the world we are competing against. We also have a responsibility to improve the world along with the rest of its citizens. The less educated we are, the less we can contribute to creating global history.

Lowering the bar is not something that should be applauded. The government needs to be embarrassed by the findings in this report, not defensive.

And we as citizens need to experience collective, positive embarrassment as a nation and ask ourselves what we can do to improve the situation. It is time we stopped making education the sole responsibility of government.

Where you come from should not determine whether or not you receive a quality education. Yet this is mostly the case. The wealthier an area, the better the quality of education the children who live there receive. We don’t even have to go as far as the extramural activities such children are able to enjoy because of their privileged position in society. Compare this with children from poorer communities who seem to have teachers who only attend class when they want to, despite continuing to get paid.

A friend of mine who works in government says one of the biggest problems we have in South Africa is a case of too much democracy. Even though he’d never say it out loud, he has implied that teachers, for example, should not be allowed to strike. They must do their jobs and teach, not cripple, our nation.

Of course the government does not want to cripple the children. But the more our interest in appearances grows in opposition to what the results show, the worse our situation will get. No wonder other countries in the rest of the continent are growing at a faster rate than us. There is no question that South Africa should be one of the best performing countries in the world.

If we are truly determined, if we want to focus and work together with the single goal of ensuring that we take our rightful place in the world, we have to start making sacrifices.

We can work our way to the very top of the pile. But this is something that will require hard work, sacrifice and honesty on the part of government and citizens. This is not our leaders’ South Africa. It is our South Africa, and we all bear the responsibility to make it work and see our country take its rightful place among the nations of the world.

If we do things right, we can achieve a double-digit ranking within 10 years instead of our current three digits and bottom ranking. It can be done.

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