PITFALLS AND PEARLS OF BASIC EDUCATION
By: Veantha Naidoo
Two decades ago, the dawn of a new South Africa promised the masses much needed changes to basic education. This gave hope to previously disadvantaged individuals unable to afford the opportunity to educate themselves.
In response to a poor education system in South Africa, government’s excuses have become too common, citing a greater population to serve and claiming that teaching problems are expected with change. These have been condemned by researchers, academics and politicians.
Conditions such as a lack of educators, lack of learning material and poor infrastructure seemed to have added fuel to the fire. The heat is still being felt throughout the country’s classrooms. Some of them still makeshift and overpopulated.
Research has shown that some of the biggest challenges facing education apart from having incompetent teachers, is the failure of the education department to deliver on its promises, with government officials having little accountability and transparency.
Ronald Naidoo, a teacher said, “The education department is not able to deliver to pupils the quality of education that they need.”
It is noted that during apartheid, government educational systems were designed to the advantage of white South Africans. If one looks at all the challenges facing the current South African educational system, one cannot help but believe that the South African educational system is still ringing the bells of the apartheid era. Our sister countries like Zimbabwe and Kenya spend a great deal less per child on basic education and yet seem to accomplish more.
So, having discovered so many pitfalls in the last two decades in basic education in our country, were there any pearls? Yes!
The lessons that we have learnt thus far are the gems that we treasure in the hope of securing a safe educational future for all South Africans. The reality is that the South African educational system methodology needs urgent intervention. National strategies are seemingly not aligned to the needs of the country.
There appears to be gaping holes on many levels that worsen the state of our educational system. To say that education is the most important pillar to the development of this country is a very strong statement. The country needs to re-enforce and unify the foundation of such a pillar.
There has to be internal and governmental control to increase accountability and transparency of the learning and teaching process. Involvement of all stakeholders and academics in the development of an effective and workable curriculum for South Africa is vital to its sustainability.
Vasanthrie Naidoo, a senior lecturer in higher education said, “The contemporary education system in South Africa needs to be re-vamped urgently. Government needs input from academia to help with policy and decision making.”
According to politicians during the recent election campaign, education in South Africa is now worse than it was prior to democracy.
If educational policy-makers understand that proper education has the potential to increase the employment of the South African majority, they will also understand that quality education will enable them to be employed or become entrepreneurs in their own right. This then has the potential to break the vicious cycle of underdevelopment and poverty which many South Africans are trapped in.