AT THE HEIGHT of political oppression, historically disadvantaged institutions maintained academic excellence. Student politics was alive and well, but students realised the importance of education in helping them achieve emancipation.
Bantu Education did not dissuade many school- children from excelling.
Judge Dikgang Moseneke did not allow prison to deter him from studying. Professor Sipho Seepe is a shining example. Despite the odds, he obtained his PhD in Physics against the wishes of the architects of apartheid.
Schools produced outstanding results despite little technological development. University students had a way of showing their dissatisfaction with management without divert the essence of their presence.
Fast forward to 1994 - the dawn of democracy. The ushering in of the new dispensation, unfortunately, did a great harm to education.
As a way of tackling the needs of a post-democratic, nonracial and nonsexist society, outcome-based education (OBE), a controversial education system, was introduced. Commenting on the success or failure of the education system, Panyaza Lesufi of the Ministry of Basic Education says the manner in which OBE was introduced is like changing a punctured tyre while the car is in motion. So, you cannot expect perfect results.
The behaviour of our modern pupils and their teachers does not help either. Pregnant pupils have become the norm in schools. In many cases, the girls' married male teachers are the silent fathers of the unborn children.
Some schools became maternity wards for pupils who gave birth on their premises. In the main, the focus of the pupils has shifted.
It is not surprising that at the end of the year many of them are caught cribbing during examinations. Their brothers and sisters at universities take to the streets at the slightest provocation.
The final pilot phase of the National Benchmark Tests Project, which was made public late last month, is a case in point. It deepens the scandal over the education system in general.
It makes it clear that many of our matriculants cannot read and write. The new findings show that schools are turning out millions of illiterate and innumerate teenagers, and the finger is pointed at the education system.
Now that education is correctly divided into two ministries - Basic Education under Angie Motshekga and Higher Education under Blade Nzimande, the ministry must have focus.
Motshekga must stop her unannounced visits to schools. I do not think they serve any purpose. These visits used to be called guerilla units during Kader Asmal's time and I believe wherever the professor is, he can honestly say they did not work.
The results of OBE shadow every development the private sector is making towards education. Through their corporate social investment, companies such as Eskom, Safmarine, Old Mutual and others are doing their best to improve the quality of education in mathematics and science.
Education will always be a precondition for development. And it has since become a societal issue that needs all our attention.
The writer is acting head of publishing in the office of the premier of Limpopo. He writes in his personal capacity.