​Civic education might be the future

The great Nelson Mandela is famous for a multitude of achievements, but the most remarkable is his passion for the advancement of his people. One of this most famous quotes is: “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

Africa has a high rate of unemployment, and poverty is widespread, factors fuelling an increasing crime rate. It is said that education is the best corrective measure for these issues; however, the past years have revealed that the education prescription is not inclusive, and has many shortfalls.

Our education system does not acknowledge the mental damage caused by apartheid, nor does it address its inequities.

The application of one educational formula across both the advantaged and the disadvantaged populations is not the best corrective measure. The latter group suffers from generational deprivation, a lack of parental education and a lack of basic learning infrastructure.

Despite attempts to redress the inequalities, the disadvantaged fail to thrive, especially in the rural areas. This discrepancy contributes negatively towards the economy and the development of rural settlements in general.


Dr Robert Mattes of the University of Cape Town, in his 2012 paper titled “Civic Education in South Africa’s First Post-Apartheid Generation” says the education system excludes civic education, and this is a contributing factor to the creation of rebellious youth.

He says that post-apartheid, two educational reforms were introduced for developing civic education. The department of education’s National Curriculum Statement of 2001 re-introduced history as a school subject from grades four-12 (optional for grades 10-12) as an intervention to develop and strengthen democratic values. Consequently, life orientation was introduced in high schools as a democratic element, but this subject is non-examinable, though it requires considerable effort to teach it.

Civic education is a useful tool for post-apartheid rehabilitation, as it carries historical teachings and educates about self-government. The absence of civic education in academic institutions has a detrimental impact on the future of the country, as the uninformed youth have scant knowledge of how to implement democracy, and thus perform acts of vandalism each time they voice their concerns.

Activist, businesswoman, former academic and managing director of the World Bank, Dr Mamphela Ramphele emphasises that civic education contributes to global civilization and knowledge in mathematics, science, architecture, philosophy, commerce and trade.

Civics is the study of the theoretical, political and practical aspects of citizenship, as well as its rights and duties, and includes the duties of citizens to each other as members of a political body and to the government.

There is a large inter-generational gap in government, with a disproportionate amount of old elite representatives. This poses a threat to the transference of historical and national values. Our country is in need of civic education beyond arithmetic and literacy skills.

Dr Zamantungwa Khumalo is the chairperson of I am a Future Leader Youth Development Programme

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