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Black child's education can change for better

Pupils from Richard Varha High School in rural Dimbaza, Eastern Cape, do some experiments in the school's science lab./SUPPLIED
Pupils from Richard Varha High School in rural Dimbaza, Eastern Cape, do some experiments in the school's science lab./SUPPLIED

Dr Sadah Moodley of Actonville in Benoni stands in front of his giant warehouse imbuing an education philosophy that inspires even the most sceptical.

His face lights up when he demonstrates how at Harvard University he developed a science school in a box for the teaching of deaf students in the US.

This, he says, exceeded the expectations of the team he led at Harvard. He argues that this is the way to go to reverse the legacy of apartheid that denied blacks in general and Africans in particular access to maths and science.

His lab is the immersion that enables him to discover deep solutions in the integrated teaching of chemistry, physics and maths.

When I brought Mr Mguni - the unconventional maths teacher from Soweto - a month ago to his lab in Benoni, it was love at first sight. Each concluded the sentence of the other as they conversed about the black child and the plight of their future.

Dr Moodley was part of the team that set the equations developed to discover the Black Hole. Twenty five years into democracy, 43 years after June 16 and 65 years after a seminal pronouncement in the South African parliament, a key deficit characterising our society is poor education.

There is no end in sight as our South African lives get embroiled into the effects of debilitating state capture, domestic violence, drugs, unemployment and poverty.

On November 25 1953, then minister of Bantu education Dr Hendrik Verwoerd, who would later become the prime minister of SA, asked a question in parliament and provided an answer that sowed destruction to black lives in SA.

He asked: "What is the use of teaching a Bantu child mathematics when it cannot use it in practice?" Ever since that announcement, a systematic machinery that ensured this was followed by real action and put in place to dent teaching of especially maths and science subjects among African blacks and coloureds.

The crop of teachers who could deliver these subjects competently dwindled and their replacement was both in quantity and competency getting poorer. Funding of education per learner was also lowest for coloureds and African blacks respectively.

Indians, on the other hand, mounted a protracted fight that focused on education. African blacks were most severely affected by the phenomenon of migration and families were divided and support to African black children in particular and that of the coloureds suffered significantly.

Our democracy did not dress mathematics in glory either. It went on to introduce mathematics literacy.

What should we do to correct the terminal damage?

I covered work done at a micro level by Mr Mguni on the mathematics front and I continue to meet people with ideas that have been successfully implemented at the micro level.

Mbilwi in Venda, at R700 a child a year, delivers results that are equivalent if not far better than IBE schools given that they charge a hundred times what Mbilwi charges - R70,000 per child per year.

As we tackle the legacy of apartheid and our self-inflicted misdemeanors, Mbilwi, Mguni and Moodley sing a song of evidence that blacks can excel in science and maths and they are not deserving of a 30% pass mark nor are they deserving of maths literacy.

Through their innovation, they all prove the fortunes of a black child can change for the better.

This is the day Verwoed will jump out of his grave and Mandela can sleep peacefully.

*Lehohla is former head of Statistics South Africa

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