Sat Oct 22 11:00:01 SAST 2016

a myth about black poverty

By Sandile Memela | Aug 18, 2009 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

THE poor performance of black students at school and university has absolutely nothing to do with poverty or class background.

THE poor performance of black students at school and university has absolutely nothing to do with poverty or class background.

It is both a shock and disappointment to observe that many people, including some in the black community, want to mislead us to believe that poverty is responsible for black under-performance or failure.

These apologists of black self-sabotage go on to suggest that there is a connection between black students' under-performance, exclusion and poverty.

This is a myth that needs to be shattered because we should know that the academic under-performance of black students, particularly, has very little to do with poverty or class background.

Sadly, what this means in practical terms is that if you are black and poor, your resilience, determination, focus and hard work are not going to make a difference because you are going to fail.


The black poor areproducts of their circumstances and these are destined to not only reproduce themselves but repeat the same mistakes.

This is supposed to be a convincing explanation for the lack of super-excellent performers among the black and poor.

But we have to interrogate the misconception that black students are most likely not expected to be excellent performers because they are from poor backgrounds.

It may be very good and a politically correct excuse to promote the myth that black students perform poorly because they are from disadvantaged backgrounds but this is simply not true.

The so-called rise in the middle class has, for instance, seen an increase in the number of black students enrolled in private and other model C schools.

But this has not been accompanied by a dramatic increase in the number of black students who are super-achievers with seven distinctions.

So, class has very little to do with black scholarly performance.

We have to discontinue promoting the excuse of racism, poor infrastructure and degrading conditions to explain poor academic performance among blacks.


The sad but simple truth is that over the last 16 years we have continued to see whites and Asian students dominate and almost monopolise the ranks of straight As in matric results.

Look at any year's matric results and there is ample proof that blacks are not super-performers at matric level, for instance.

Also, we can follow up with a focused study on the number of black students who finish courses they start at university and the grades they get.

The fact that some teachers in black schools are under-qualified, demoralised and de-motivated, drink a lot, have affairs with pupils, might be a factor for poor academic performance but this is not an excuse.

Instead, it would seem that black students are not inclined to give their best when it comes to scholarly work at school or university.

This is not because they are black or stupid, for that matter.

Furthermore, when you closely examine the history of black super-achievers, they are not necessarily people who were straight-A students, but average folks.

Perhaps we have to hold a frank national conversation on why black students want to blackmail the nation by suggesting that there is a link between their under-performance and poverty.

We are all aware and do accept that when matric results are announced this year, for instance, there will be more white and Asian students who are super-performers.

It is just not right that decent people continue to "clap hands" for apologists of black self-sabotage who spout nonsense.

It simply does not make us grapple with the real issues behind their black under-performance.

This statement might be misconstrued as suggesting that blacks are inherently lazy and stupid.


But we are setting up the black nation for failure, entrenching a culture of entitlement and encouraging under-performance by accepting the excuse that there is a connection between poverty and under-performance.

For instance, the government continues to pour millions of rands into the South African National Student Financial Aid Scheme.

But where are the black straight-A students from poor backgrounds who will automatically qualify for these grants?

And what is the number of black students who go on to graduate with excellent marks?

Black people cannot continue to hide behind the excuse of poverty, class and racism for self-created problems. The black people of this country have a problem.

Part of the solution lies in understanding the exact nature of the problem and not misleading ourselves by clapping to politically correct nonsense.

Instead, let us get to the root of this black under-performance.

lMemela is a civil servant. He writes in his private capacity


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