Opinionista Mduduzi Mbiza 4 May 2018

SA’s education system needs a leader whose orders and instructions will be clear and understood

The South African basic education crisis spans from teachers who are under qualified/unqualified to learners performing very badly against their African counterparts, let alone competing globally. Introducing new ways of learning won’t really help the system as a whole – it might play some part in improving learning, but an education system is not solely made up of learning. Teacher professionalism and leadership competency, among other things, have to be considered too.

It finally dawned on me that at this very moment: the way things are, the Department of Basic Education doesn’t need a new curriculum. At the state at which South Africa is, simply changing the education curriculum won’t do us any good. Ask yourself why it never worked in the past years. We moved from OBE (Outcomes-Based Education) to NCS and now we have the CAPS curriculum, but we never moved our test scores significantly.

The South African basic education crisis spans from teachers who are under qualified/unqualified to learners performing very badly against their African counterparts, let alone competing globally. Introducing new ways of learning won’t really help the system as a whole – it might play some part in improving learning, but an education system is not solely made up of learning. Teacher professionalism and leadership competency, among other things, have to be considered too.

Research shows that teachers are very important to improving learner content. With some teachers poorly equipped with content themselves, learners lose out on the curriculum. In some cases it has been found that learners lose out on the yearly curriculum because of teacher absenteeism and lack of accountability.

The DBE needs their Jesus to fix the system. A saviour, a new leader.

In 2009 the department of education was separated into two departments, with Angie Motshekga taking charge of basic education. I believed that with this transition the Jesus of basic education had arrived. I honestly believed that she was our saviour. Unfortunately that wasn’t so true and we were in for a ride.

In South Africa there is a widespread perception that the national, provincial and local levels of government are not held accountable for how they use public resources (Spaull, Accountability and capacity in South African education: 2015).

In order to fix South Africa’s education system, meaning in order to fix teacher professionalism and leadership competency we need to go back in time – a thousand years back. We need to go back to a man who lived in the 6th Century BC. His name was Sun Tzu.

Sun Tzu was a Chinese general, a military strategist who lived in the Eastern Zhou period of ancient China. He is known for authoring The Art of War, an influential work of military strategy that has affected both Western and East Asian military thinking. This written work is composed of 13 chapters, all highly devoted to the aspects of warfare. Applying them led to a greater military strategy and tactics.

After studying the 13 chapters, Helü, king of the state of Wu towards the end of the spring and autumn period of ancient China ordered Sun Tzu to put his 13 chapters to the test on the ladies in the kingdom. Sun Tzu agreed and organised the 180 ladies into two groups for training. He put two of the king’s favourite concubines at the heads of the two groups. His orders were that, at the sound of the drums, the ladies must do as Sun Tzu said. When the drums were played, he gave an order: “Right turn.” To his surprise, the ladies burst into laughter. Sun Tzu then said: “If words of command are not clear and distinct, if orders are not thoroughly understood, then the general is to blame” – meaning in this case he was to blame.

Sun Tzu started the drill again. This time he gave the order “left turn”. Once again the ladies laughed. Sun Tzu said: “If words of command are not clear and distinct, if orders are not thoroughly understood, then the general is to blame. But if the orders are clear, and the soldiers nevertheless disobey, then it is the fault of their officers.” With this, Sun Tzu ordered that the leaders of the two groups be executed. After the execution, the drum was played once again. This time the ladies followed every order from Sun Tzu, from marching to kneeling, doing it all with perfection and accuracy.

Even though the king didn’t want Sun Tzu to execute the two ladies, he later admitted that Sun Tzu was the one who knew how to handle an army. Sun Tzu was then appointed as the general.

If there’s one thing that’s going to save us it has to be Sun Tzu. Sun Tzu died in 470 BC. However, we can still learn from him. One particular thing we can take from Sun Tzu is the way he delivered his instructions. With Sun Tzu, accountability started with him, the general. If his rules and instructions are clear, we have to move a level below him. If not, then the general has to make his instructions clear and understandable.

We need a leader whose orders and instructions will be clear and understood. If those below our leader disobey the orders and instructions, they must be axed – not killed, but fired or at least warned.

South Africa is faced with the issue of accountability, where no one wants to be held accountable and where no one wants to hold those who are wrong accountable.

South Africa’s biggest issue is power. Leaders are in power but they don’t exercise their power correctly and in the interest of the country and its citizens. DM

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Tom Moyane and his cronies bequeathed South Africa with a R48-billion tax shortfall, as of February 2018. It's the only thing that grew under Moyane's tenure... the year before, the hole had been R30.7-billion. And to fund those shortfalls, you know who has to cough up? You - the South African taxpayer.

It was the sterling work of a team of investigative journalists, Scorpio’s Pauli van Wyk and Marianne Thamm along with our great friends at amaBhungane, that caused the SARS capturers to be finally flushed out of the system. Moyane, Makwakwa… the lot of them... gone.

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