Funds must be managed

With the usual year-end festive cheer slightly tempered by the decline in the matric pass rate, there is some unanimity that the country is not reaping results in education quite in tandem with the amount of government spending focused on it.

With the usual year-end festive cheer slightly tempered by the decline in the matric pass rate, there is some unanimity that the country is not reaping results in education quite in tandem with the amount of government spending focused on it.

Underscoring this point is the fact that the matric pass dropped again for 2007 to 65,2percent from 66,5percent in 2006 - coupled with a disappointing reduction in the number of pupils eligible for university entrance next year.

Education Minister Naledi Pandor has attributed several reasons for the decline - including teachers not preparing learners for papers requiring high-level cognitive skills.

But the most worrying aspect - identified by the minister herself - was the inadequate role played by the national and provincial departments which, she said, were not administering and supporting the system with high-level efficiency.

This suggests that, while government allocates huge resources to address backlogs in education, problems persist because of weaknesses in management of systems and implementation of strategies at provincial level.

That a large number of teachers were inadequately equipped to prepare learners for the revised curriculum also did not augur well.

The reality is that township schools have not turned the corner 13 years into our new democracy. This is despite huge injections of resources - suggesting that, without proper management and monitoring systems in place, educational authorities might be guilty of throwing money at a problem. A school grant system linked to performance could be an option in the future to reverse the disappointing trend among the poorest schools which continue to perform badly.

Without a Marshall Plan to redress the daunting challenges in our education system, however, South Africa might still be dogged by the same skills-development issues in the next decade.

But all the doom and gloom could be reversed if, in the words of Pandor, all South Africans resolved to make schools work.

Let's prioritise education, health, jobs and crime as key areas requiring urgent attention in 2008.

X