Parental guidance, discipline, work ethic would help a lot
Poor Kate Bapela is the Gauteng education department boss' sounding board.
Whenever her boss, Angie Motshekga, pictured, wants to vent her frustration, Bapela, the MEC's spin doctor, is always able and willing to absorb it all in her stride like a beast of burden. After all, Motshekga does it all in serious jest.
"The black middle class, like Kate here, spoil their children rotten," Motshekga said.
"Kids do not grow up to understand that for their personal growth, they need to make certain sacrifices."
Motshekga was serious though when she said that so-called "Model C" pupils only want to learn enough English - and to speak it better than the English themselves - to land a job as a radio or television presenter.
But as well as they may do, there is the problem of children in Africa who cannot speak English or any South African language.
"They should aspire to do better," Motshekga said.
She said children coming from outside South Africa compound the department's problems because many teachers in Gauteng, or South Africa for that matter, are not trained to teach in, for example, French.
"But we have to accommodate them and do the best we can under the circumstances."
Like Japanese children for example, she said South African children should strive to better their skills, be disciplined and have a higher work ethic.
Motshekga did not only single out the Japanese. Closer to home, she gave examples of ethnic groups such as Indian and Afrikaner pupils who, she said, always do better at school because of parental discipline.
Motshekga said there were many mainly black schools in the province where pupils come to school armed as if they were going to war.
Motshekga believes that in addition to parental guidance, discipline and personal determination, Gauteng should build schools differently.
"Like our churches, we have open-plan schools where everyone, even outsiders, can come and go at will. Our schools are not built for safety."
The day after a student massacred 32 fellow students on a US campus, Motshekga said her department would install palisade fencing and generally jack up security at schools in Gauteng.
"Student violence is on the increase. There are fights over girlfriends and sometimes this violence is taken beyond the school premises. We must work closely with the police."
She said the department recently had to track down pupils who were runners for drug cartels in Pimville, Soweto.
You have to believe Motshekga when she says her job is work-in-progress. Her work will never get done.
Emigrants flocking to the richest province on the continent make her job harder.
Almost daily, hundreds of people from other parts of the country, the continent and other parts of the world move to Gauteng in search of better jobs.
They bring with them their children who need education. This was something she had not budgeted for.
Another factor that makes Motshekga's job difficult is the changing demographics of the province.
"In some places, we have an aging community close to schools. These schools become redundant, while some relatively new and expanding areas, such as Diepsloot, Cosmos and Midrand, are experiencing a boom and shortage of classes."
Despite the department having built three schools in Cosmos, two more are needed.
In places such as Vosloorus and Katlehong, Motshekga has had to close down schools because there were no pupils.
But when corporate South Africa chips in to help the department with its burden, Motshekga says her job was rewarded.
Oracle, an IT company, has built a school in Midrand with two IT centres.
Mining company Billington spent about R50million building a science centre in Newtown in downtown Johannesburg.
BMW has also contributed positively to the education in Gauteng.
Things could be a lot better though if only Kate and the other middle-class moms and dads in the province could instil some serious discipline in their children at home.
l You can see the video of the Andrew Molefe interview with education MEC Motshekga on www.sowetan.co.za