IF WE want to turn around black education, we must start by changing prevailing anti-learning attitudes.

IF WE want to turn around black education, we must start by changing prevailing anti-learning attitudes.

We must deal with the lack of political will by leaders to do something beyond mouthing rhetoric, wrong priorities and absent black parents.

There seems to be no sense of urgency in government to do something different to tackle the crisis. Introducing short-cuts such as downgrading pass marks is an indication of a lack of seriousness.

There is a link between the rampant anti-intellectualism in the country and poor matric results. In dominant political circles, knowledge is rarely appreciated. In poorer black communities education is not seen strongly enough as a route out of poverty.

The fact that many learners see matriculants wandering the streets unemployed because they did not graduate with the right subjects and results, which would make them employable, does not help.

Education is the single most effective black economic empowerment strategy, or redistribution tool, to reverse the crippling apartheid legacy of deliberately underdeveloping black communities. The continuing slide in black education entrenches apartheid patterns.

A minority in private schools, mostly white, and a small black middle class, get an education that compares with the best in the world. The majority get the worst education imaginable, leaving them without the skills to navigate the world of work.

At this rate, blacks will continue to do menial work, and whites will manage the sophisticated parts of the economy. But the lack of blacks is not only a drain on the economy.

Black resentment, anger and powerlessness because of economic marginalisation is a primed time-bomb.The election of Jacob Zuma as ANC leader and South African president and Julius Malema as ANC Youth League president (and anointed by Zuma as future ANC president) shows that anyone can make it to the most influential positions.

The flipside is that this could suggest that education does not matter. One can advance without it if one joins the ANC, becomes a loyal cadre or links up with a local party boss, and stays loyal to him or her, and so on.

The way in which the ANC's deployment system is frequently manipulated means someone with impeccable education can be bypassed for a job in the public sector, if not connected to party bosses; and the job is given to someone who is connected but incompetent.

In East Asia, almost every second politician is an engineer or a commerce graduate. A township school will lack windows or a toilet, while the politician supposedly representing the constituency drives a R1,2million car.

To expect delivery on promises for better education without parents keeping up pressure on the government and teachers is just silly. As black parents we accept too much mediocrity. Parents who can must be more involved.

Most black parents in poor communities cannot support children. School hours and after-care support must be extended.

Poor families must be given a basic income grant. As recipients, parents can guard, clean or offer general support to schools.

Good teachers must be rewarded and lazy ones disciplined. It is not the unions' job to protect weak teachers just because they are members of the union.

In fact, it is the union's job to see that the quality of teachers is high. Business must adopt poor schools, instead of appointing token politicians to boards and striking meaningless BEE deals with the well-connected. The government must give resources to schools on time - and govern better.