South Africa is a lost cause when it comes to education‚ with great policies of opening doors of learning not matched with the necessary support which results in black people not succeeding at university.
This is according to Dr Pali Lehohla‚ the country’s statistician-general‚ who was making a presentation to the fees commission sitting in Pretoria on Monday.
Lehohla opened his presentation by painting a picture of how the country has failed in investing in the education of young people‚ therefore missing out on the demographic dividend.
“There is a loss in the current dividend‚ there will be a continued loss‚” he said.
Lehohla explained that while the white and Indian populations invested in the education of their young‚ policies meant to open doors of learning for black children were not met with the necessary support.
He said this led to the high level of university drop-outs among the black population.
Lehohla said between 2011 and 2016‚ the number of Indian and white people who completed their degrees increased while those of blacks and coloureds declined.
He said if blacks who complete their degrees were meant to fill a dam year on year‚ “the dam will not be filled‚ it will continue to empty”.
Asked what the cause of this sorry state of affairs in education was‚ he said it all started in 1953 when then minister of Bantu Education Hendrik Verwoerd questioned the use of teaching black children mathematics if they would not use it in practice.
He said Indians then did not rely on employment for survival and were able to invest in the education of their young‚ saying this was why their education took a different trajectory than those of blacks and coloureds.
“That statement introduced Bantu education and destroyed the education of black people...the migratory labour system was important in the destruction of (black) education‚” he said.
He said this was also the consequence of success in policies but lack of support to get there.
“This is wasteful resource mobilisation..for every one black that succeeds (at university) there are 1‚200 whites succeeding. Blacks do not succeed at university. Though they were succeeding in the 1980’s‚ now they are not succeeding” he said.
Lehohla said it was a lost cause because the ingredients to drive the demographic dividend have dried up.
He said this was because women were giving birth to fewer children than before and that marriage was not universal in SA‚ saying the average birth rate for a woman was now two children.
“There is no bonus from where we can reap. When we had‚ we did not invest‚” he said.
His core submission was to fix basic education and allow expanded tertiary education.
The commission is investigating the feasibility of introducing free education at varsities‚ as demanded by students.
In the interim report‚ the commission said there was little to be achieved by making access to higher education more readily accessible unless systemic and other deficiencies in the basic education system are simultaneously addressed.