Education: Waiting for the dam to burst
- Osiame Molefe
- 06 Jun 2012 10:53 (South Africa)
If you need any more evidence that South Africa’s basic education system, and perhaps government, is in the throes of a full-on crisis, look no further than a few of the cases the basic education department has been hauled before the courts to answer. One case relates to the lack of adequate schools infrastructure, another to the late delivery of textbooks to Limpopo schools and a third to an apparent administrative bungle relating to how the department deals with textbook publishers.
The most recent case, brought by the Legal Resources Centre on behalf of the Centre for Child Law and four school governing bodies, seeks to compel education minister Angie Motshekga and her provincial counterpart to fill the numerous vacant teacher posts in the Eastern Cape. Motshekga recently described the state of basic education in the province as a “horror story”. One of those horrors is the unacceptably high student-to-teacher ratio.
Equal Education, which brought the case on school infrastructure, said it did not make the decision to turn to the courts lightly. For years the NGO lobbied for libraries and the eradication of mud schools before opening up the campaign to a broader appeal to improve infrastructure in public schools. When the lobbying failed to yield results, despite the obvious and urgent need, the organisation brought the lawsuit to compel Motshekga to set minimum norms and standards for school infrastructure.
With the norms and standards in place, Motshekga, the departments of finance and public works, and the provincial education MECs would have a base from which to co-ordinate building schools, libraries, sanitation facilities and other infrastructure at a standard that will allow students to flourish.
In addition to these cases, several others relating to different departments exist: the Freedom Under Law on the Mdluli saga, the Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance on e-tolling, and the SA Litigation Centre and the Zimbabwe Exiles’ Forum on the country's failure to fulfil its international obligations under the Rome Statute.
Taken with these other cases, those against the education department form part of a broader trend that indicates a loss of faith in the government, and not by anti-majoritarians, as some in the governing party might claim. These campaigns are well supported and seek to prod government into doing more than what the ANC promised in its election mandate.
The cases against the education department are also significant once you consider that they are not isolated to the specific schools involved. They are indicative of system-wide problems that manifest in the woeful exam performance of public school students.
In the recently released mid-term review of the performance of President Jacob Zuma's Cabinet, the monitoring and evaluation department isolated the problems in basic education by looking at what determines how children in the system perform.
Poverty remains the primary determinant of pupil performance, it said. That, compounded with poor subject-matter knowledge by teachers, poor operational management in provinces, districts and schools, inadequate schools infrastructure, and the late delivery of learning materials means that the system fails many millions of students every year.
This litany of problems points to there being a response greater than calling for the head of whoever is in charge, which is what the normal South Africa reflex dictates.
Sure, Motshekga (or the ANC government) can be shown the door, but the fundamental problems ailing the system would remain. The SA Democratic Teachers’ Union can be made, by some miracle, to butt out of managing teacher performance, but the problems in teacher training and accreditation would remain. Every last administrator can be fired, but still there will be students learning under trees or in mud schools. We can have state-of-the-art schools, yet whatever it is that prevents South African teachers from achieving the same results as their international counterparts with equivalent knowledge levels will still be there.
Nothing short of a comprehensive response that deals with all the facets of the problem will right this situation. And until an admission that basic education is in crisis is forthcoming, an intervention here and a court case there might not lead to such a response.
In the meantime, there are children in the public school system, about 12 million of them according to the last schools survey. Every year, some fall out because the system has failed them and of the few that make it to grade 12, the majority graduate without the knowledge and skills needed to survive, let alone succeed, in the workplace or in higher education.
With their aspirations stunted in this manner, so too has the rest of the populace been doomed to mediocrity, at best. At worst, with the huge numbers we’re talking about here, civil unrest lies ahead. DM
- Education and civil Service: Parents, teachers, students and government all stand accused, on Polity.org.za
- ANALYSIS: the DA's battle to buddy up to the everyman
- SA's very own ‘Made in Israel’ war of words
- Limpopo textbooks - only the beginning of basic education's woes
- Fixing the criminal justice system starts by rooting out corruption at the top
- This time Cosatu rebuts the divisive youth wage subsidy with words, not stones
- The broad church means the ANC is too big not to fail
- Opposition MPs stake their claim on foreign relations morality in Tibet debate
- Lindiwe Sisulu's message of change
- Crisis or challenge, school infrastructure is nowhere near where it should be
- Political forecast for the week of 18 June: E-tolls, looming strikes, eurozone meltdowns and premiers on bikes
- PSC report could be straw that breaks some premiers' backs
- Art in a sling: Breaking walls and building a nation in paint and print
- Fighting graft with faith: Western Cape religious leaders talk corruption
- Basic education: Some gloom, some doom and a mountain still to be done
- SA's new political tool: Freedom of Cape Town for the Obamas
- Education: Waiting for the dam to burst
- Mthethwa to challenge Western Cape community safety bill
- Public sector unions and government set on a collision course
- Cabinet's mid-term report card: F for fail
- Despite objections, government stands by e-tolling
- Zwelinzima Vavi: Political consciousness leaves quietly
- E-education: A virtual dream for many public school students
- Cape Town's vision 2040
- The Spear: Black anger and white obliviousness
- Employment: Western Cape model provides glimmer of hope
- Brainstorm: The state of income inequality in South Africa
- Reporter's notebook: Decoding the Democratic Alliance
- As one struggle continues, the other should not be forgotten
- Analysis: The youth wage subsidy should not go the way of the nationalisation debate
- Another internecine war rocks the government
- Analysis: DA's young Turks tackle the race issue
- Despite indications to the contrary, South Africa's democracy is growing up
- South Africa: War criminals' holiday destination no more?
- Africa goes hi-tech: But where are all those keen investors?
- A warning for mankind: Beware the new Big Brother
- Gents, rape isn't a thing that only other men do
- Partisan dust-up over rights of the disabled goes nowhere
- Eish, DA!
- SA news media: under pressure AND under magnifying lens
- The ANC and the battle for the 'born-frees'
- Fighting shadows: How money corrupts the ANC - and its plan to stop it
- Analysis: Will the ANC seriously consider party funding this year?
- Zuma is worst president ANC has ever had
- Tough lessons for Zille from refugee tweet debacle
- Top 10 battles raging within the tripartite alliance
- Cosatu defends 'principled position' at secrecy bill hearings
- Protests are a sign of ignorance of democracy's power
- Zimbabwe torture victims turn to SA courts
- The turbulent waters of the NPA's Zim email-strom
- Ladies and gentlemen, the contemplative Ms Mazibuko
- Refugee reactions show that South Africans stand apart from Africans
- Analysis: Steep learning curve for alliance in Western Cape
- Race is just a useful marker to distinguish the worthy from the unworthy
- UCT's admissions policy unearths middle-class black angst
- Analysis: Vavi hangs Zuma out to dry
- NGO hauls Motshekga to court over school infrastructure
- Cosatu also exploits the poor out of self-interest
- Cape Town ready for Cosatu city centre shut down
- Eastern Cape pupils picket for libraries and sanitation
- Wednesday: Over 35,000 expected in Cape Town CBD instalment of Cosatu-led nationwide protest
- Frivolous comparisons to apartheid are the only thing worse than apartheid
- Analysis: Radebe's egg-dance fails to impress as bumpy road awaits
- Analysis: The Constitutional Court is the next cow to the abattoir
- How voters' right to know is bought and sold in SA
- Helen Zille's sore spot
- Sex and sexuality in a time of societal malaise
- Cosatu takes anti-corruption fight to Free State
- Cosatu and corruption, the phantom menace
- Eat, the beloved country
- Who will take responsibility?
- Cape Town, world racism capital 2011?
- The ANC has only itself to blame for bad press
- New adult channel stokes South Africa's porn conundrum
- Carrots, sticks and Zille's latest HIV misstep
- Analysis: Just how liberal is the DA?
- Russell Tribunal deliberates Apartheid Israel amid "kangaroo court" claims
- Mogoeng's first day on the job
- Never mind creation, Gordhan's mini-budget focuses on job retention
- There is, thankfully, a Pedi word for big 'misunderstanding'
- Malema’s economic freedom lecture: Swansong or come-back hit?
- African leaders meet to talk job creation and labour standards
- Diversity a trump card as more endorsements come in for Mazibuko
- Rights groups cry foul as South Africa resumes deportations of undocumented Zimbabweans
- The day of the Archbishop's ire
- The DA's surprising proposal on domestic worker rights
- Mazibuko's star rises as she outlines her plan for the DA parliamentary caucus
- ANALYSIS: The Western Cape takes the thought leadership in job creation - now all we need is action
- ANC makes U-turn on secrecy bill - and lives to tell the tale
- Secrecy bill: to be or not to be - we're about to find out
- President's day of fun and amusement in Parliament
- Public Protector on participatory democracy, secrecy bill and her office's powers. And the country in trouble.
- Vettel victorious at Monza
- WikiLeaks cables go public, unfiltered
- Sisulu stands by decision to appoint Yengeni to defence review committee
- Vettel leads home a Red Bull 1-2 at Spa-Francorchamps
- Belgian Grand Prix: Preview
- Democratic Alliance eyes 2014 national elections with economic policy promise
- Analysis: Time for a fresh look at SA's global competitiveness
- Analysis: Missing history, lacking context bring back the great white-tax debate