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Budget vote debate in parliament: Department of Basic Education – Education in South Africa going from bad to worse

Discussing the country’s poor educational system feels like déjà-vu and this year is no exception. The only difference is that things are now deteriorating even faster, and it leaves one deeply concerned about the future of the country’s youth.

It is sad that basic education just cannot seem to find a proper platform from which to work. Despite the large portion of the budget that is allocated to education annually, there is still no progress. At the same time, lowering the minimum pass mark even further and phasing out mathematics and science to improve the pass rate are also being considered.

The result is that the system is failing students in the sense that they are not equipped to further their studies at a tertiary institution or directly enter the modernised economy and labour market when they leave school. It is reminiscent of the HIV scandal where the government denied that it had to step in as the tragedy kept unfolding.

The difference, however, is that the education tragedy will result in a long drawn-out economic illness that will keep the population trapped in poverty.

The Education Department’s problems are not only caused by the poor curriculum and the low pass mark aimed at ensuring a higher pass rate of unemployed learners, but also by the recent tendency not to build more schools and the consequent pressure that it puts on existing schools.

It forces learners into a disorderly system with insufficient infrastructure, as exemplified by the actions of the Gauteng MEC for Education, Panyaza Lesufi. The disorder then leads to clashes between communities of different races about access to basic education. It is unacceptable for a MEC to incite communities in this way.

This must be brought to an end by building new and improving existing infrastructure. That will also make mother-tongue education possible, which will in turn guarantee a higher standard of mathematics and science education.

The fourth industrial revolution is bringing about drastic changes in the world. Those that are not properly educated in mathematics and science will remain in poverty. The requirement for this is mother-tongue instruction in the basic phase. Most of the learners that matriculate simply have to be able to compete in the modern economy, because the unschooled labour market is shrinking very fast as more and more workers are replaced by machines and robots.

So, when we talk about mother-tongue education, we are trying to ensure that our children have a future. It is not mere political talk.

Contact numbers: 082 391 3117 / 065 801 7216

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