Quality and equal state education for all will enhance fabric of society

Police gather outside Hoerskool Overvaal where protests erupted over failure to admit English-speaking pupils in an Afrikaans medium school.
Police gather outside Hoerskool Overvaal where protests erupted over failure to admit English-speaking pupils in an Afrikaans medium school.
Image: Alaister Russell

Our basic education requires serious attention. The state needs to prioritise this, not only through its budget, but through radical transformation and law reform. The Education Amendment Bill provides a good start despite the pushback.

Various reports suggest that the "bill has been criticised for limiting the powers of school governing bodies in appointing school heads of departments, principals and their deputies".

We should be bothered that SGB'S (in former model C schools) want to retain powers in our functioning public schools.

I have asserted previously how the rogue SGBs are the bane of the failing education system in this country.

They run schools without a care for children's constitutional rights - having the freedom to adopt policies that they believe benefit their children without care for the consequences for other groups.

SGBs are known to adopt language and admission policies that are detrimental and perpetuate exclusion. SGBs are oblivious to the fact that access to education in one's official language, such as Afrikaans, cannot be prioritised over the right to equitable access to learning by other racial groups.

The Constitutional Court ruled that a university would not be able "to provide language of choice without indirectly discriminating on the basis of race".

The court found that this could potentially lead to racially segregated classrooms and confirmed that English will be the primary medium of instruction. Shouldn't we all support the amendment bill?

Civil organisation Section27 commended the basic education department for efforts to transform education and acknowledged that "SGBs have sought to use their powers in a manner that entrenches historical patterns of privilege".

Fundamentally, however, my view is that there should also be no private basic education in SA. I say this fully aware the constitution provides the right to a private education.

But even so, my point is that the state is also obliged to provide quality education but has failed.

It cannot be ignored that our public education suffers as a result of inheriting an apartheid education system. It doesn't matter how long ago this was, the effects are still felt today, despite the department's massive budget and effort to provide adequate schooling for pupils.

Failing public schools are due to lack of leadership in schools, overcrowding in classes, no extra murals and sports, to name a few.

But fundamentally we are inherently stuck with a basic education system that is very unequal and that will only perpetuate the inequalities we struggle with today.

There can be no doubt that the foundation phase of a child's education is crucial for them to become a productive citizen - meaning - our failing education system ultimately affects our children's ability to participate in or benefit from our economy.

I read an article a while ago which detailed how Finland "recognised that a profoundly unequal education system did not simply reproduce inequality down the generations but weakened the fabric of the nation itself".

Upon reflection and discussions with all stakeholders, Finland abolished private or fee-paying schooling and "instituted a nationwide comprehensive system from the early 1970s onwards".

As a direct result of such reform it "led to the closing of the attainment gap between the richest and poorest students," and also turned Finland into "one of the global educational success stories of the modern era".

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