/ 28 October 2016

Stop the education blame game

Nelson Mandela once said: “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
Nelson Mandela once said: “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”


It is that time of the year when we pray, motivate and encourage the grade 12 learners to do the best they can in their final exams. This is not the time for educators to draw daggers against each other and try to score points to prove who is right and who is wrong.

Human nature is such that when learners do well, accolades and glory go to them (which is a good thing), but when results are bad, the educators and the department of basic education are named and shamed.

This negative reaction should not be entertained because there are very good educators who go the extra mile to provide tuition to learners. But, equally so, there are lazy and noncaring educators whose only ­concern is receiving their salary at the expense of learners.

Where we have failed children, we should be bold and stand up, and not hide behind apartheid as the continued lamentation.

As the exams for the grade 12 learners are upon us, we can ill afford to play the blame game with the future of our children.

Blaming the educators will not solve the problem of improving matric results at schools.

But action should be taken against those who regrettably draw salaries while spending time in staff rooms on their smartphones, when they should be teaching.

Nelson Mandela once said: “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

And so, with this statement in mind, I wish to encourage the grade 12 learners to concentrate on their exams.

I base my support for the grade 12 learners on three assumptions:

First, that all learners have been thoroughly prepared for the final exams by their educators by ensuring that the syllabus has been taught and that learners were given adequate opportunity to revise their work.

Second, that the educators are looking back with pride and are able to say: “We have left no stone unturned and are happy with the work we have done. Our boys and girls are ready for what lies ahead.”

Third, that the department of basic education and the nine provincial education departments have made provision for exams to commence with no major problems.

Textbooks should have been delivered on time and there should be no stories of learners having sat for exams without having received their textbooks.

It is that time when we have to concentrate on the positive side of the academic journey travelled so far.

There are four pedagogical principles that should be worked on as learners prepare for their final exams.

Examination readiness

This cannot be overemphasised; learners should be encouraged to think positively, be motivated and be advised that the final exams are just like any other “big test” and that it is not a “life-or-death” experience. Educators have prepared learners for exams like soldiers ready to go to “war” — they are thoroughly trained.

Parents should be supportive

This is a very important aspect of any parent’s role. Parents should remember the peer pressure that children are subjected to as well as the societal pressure.

Sometimes the pressure comes from the parents, with some allegedly passing comments like: “Remember, there has never been a failure in this family.” The comment may be made with good intentions, but coming at this time of the year it may have negative consequences.

It is against such a background that parents are advised to express their love and support for their children, regardless of the outcome of the exams.

Educators’ role continues

The role of the educators does not come to an end when exams are over. During and after the exams, they still have a role to play. An educator acts as a friend, counsellor and confidant. This relationship should be nurtured even beyond the exams.

The church and community

Often, at this time of the year, churches and community members will invite guest speakers to functions where they are asked to either pray for or motivate the grade 12 learners facing their final exams.

This is a good motivational strategy.

When examinations are over, the church and the community should be with the class of 2016 to congratulate those who have done well and, at the same time, to provide a shoulder to cry on for those who have not done so well.

This is not always done, yet this is the time when learners need support the most.

With the higher education sector facing serious difficulties, as the #FeesMustFall movement has shown, the grade 12 learners are probably confused and concerned about what the future holds for them.

My advice is that they should concentrate on what is currently facing them — the grade 12 exams — and not worry just yet about what is going to happen to them next year.

It must be noted that should there be a complete shutdown of universities, such a situation would have a knock-on effect for the 2017 first-time university entrants.

This is a situation that universities and the department of higher education and training need to resolve in terms of their enrolment targets for 2017.

To solve the problem raised by the #FeesMustFall campaign, the country needs to establish a national education crisis committee.

The committee could sit under the auspices of the South African Council of Churches.

It is important that the voice of the church should be heard loud and clear, especially at this time when “winds of change” are blowing across the country.

Our hearts cry out for the grade 12 learners who may be perplexed about what the future holds for them.

There is no doubt that the higher education system is in crisis. The sooner we stop the blame game, the better it will be for us to come up with a solution that will ultimately restore peace and calm at the institutions of higher learning.

Education is the foundation and hub of economic growth and development.

If the education system is disturbed, then the country’s equilibrium collapses.

For now, let us all put our heads together and prevent our country from moving towards the precipice. Generations to come will judge us bitterly by our inaction during this time of urgent need. Silence cannot be consent — it can quite often be the betrayal of one’s convictions.

Professor Gordon Zide is the registrar at Unisa. These are his own views