NATHANIEL LEE | Poor education is the ANC's greatest betrayal of the dreams of black people
SA has to look beyond governing party to save our country
Only a person who has been living under a rock for the past 10 years or is a partial beneficiary of its tainted largesse, would deny that the ANC has turned SA into a state of disaster. Crisis engulfs almost every sphere of the SA landscape, exercising a negative influence on the quality of life of South Africans, especially blacks.
Be it water outages, increased cost of living, high rates of unemployment, crime and debilitating bouts of load shedding, it is becoming clearer that the ANC has and continues to take the country backwards. In the sphere of education, the situation is dire with poor outcomes.
Coming on the back of promises of a good education for blacks who had been denied opportunities by the apartheid government, the current situation is in shambles with less than a quarter of children in grade 4 able to understand what they read, according to an international literacy test.
Furthermore, according to the Trends in International Maths and Science report in 2019, only 37% of grade 5s had basic understanding of maths and only 28% a basic understanding of science. Out of 58 countries, SA ranked third last.
The education system also continues to shed pupils with accelerating rates of pupil drop-out. .
A study conducted by Anthea Jeffrey of the Institute of Race Relations in 2019 showed that undergraduate completion rates for computer and information systems was 12%, maths and statistics 13%, physical science 17% and engineering 21%.
The poor state of education has been cited as the ANC's greatest betrayal of the dreams of black people, some of whom have taken to the deplorable protest tactic of burning schools. Some have rightly blamed the policy of cadre deployment for the shambles.
Drawing comparisons with the Afrikaner Broederbond, the ANC justifies the policy on having trusted cadres in control of the state’s levers of power. Such a comparison fails to recognise that with the Broederbond, civil servants still had to work their way up the ranks, acquire the necessary expertise to do the work and compete with each other for promotion.
What cannot be denied is that education was a key part of the affirmation of the Afrikaners as it produced the skills required by the government. The ANC, upon assuming office, could realistically have been expected to focus on education reform for a reversal of the damage wrought by apartheid.
What we have instead are scandals such as spending R431m for the “deep cleaning and decontamination” of schools during the height of Covid. Instead of the MEC in charge during the debacle falling on his sword, he is elevated to being in charge of the entire province.
According to a survey conducted by the Centre for Risk Analysis in 2020, support for the ANC showed a significant decline when education levels rose. The inference to be drawn is that the ANC benefits from poor education and therefore has every reason to sabotage it for the sake of staying in power. Cadre deployment is for political control and not for an efficient public service meant to deliver a “better life for all".
The argument goes that most of those who vote for the ANC are beneficiaries of social grants and that the incentive for the ANC to keep education standards low is to prevent the emergence of a new class of voters who are able to access gainful employment and form part of the middle class.
Citizens have lost confidence in the government to deliver anything and resorted to private service providers. Security, health, education and energy are all crisis-ridden.
Much as access to public schooling has been expanded, the ANC has only managed to replace a schooling system separated by race to one separated by wealth. Since quality education is indispensable to defeat the scourges of poverty, unemployment, crime and poor economic growth, the time for decisive interventions can no longer be postponed.
The first imperative would be to ensure that the ANC is not returned to power in 2024 to wreak further damage. To improve teacher quality, training colleges have to be reopened in an effort to restore pride in the teaching profession.
Cooperation between parents and teachers will also go a long way towards enhancing quality teaching and learning.
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