Two separate events have led me to write this post; stirred my thoughts in this direction.
About a week ago I accompanied a close friend of mine to a documentary screening for a global citizenship course she’s taking. The essence of the documentary was to give the verdict on the post apartheid generation. The documentary achieved this through an exposé on five matriculants (grade 12 students) in the all-important year that would determine whether they fail or succeed in life; whether they break the cycle of poverty or continue to perpetuate the adverse conditions in which they were born and raised.
It captured a crucial moment in the lives of the first set of grade 12 learners who began their education in a post apartheid South Africa.
As it began, I had hope, the students showcased were not the typical picture painted of the black kid at a public school who doesn’t care an ounce and just wants to get the whole high school debacle over and done with. Far from it, they had dreams and visions and strong determination to change the circumstances surrounding their existence thus far. And so I thought to myself where there is a will, there is a way.
Hence, it was with utter dismay that i watched as every single one of the students in the documentary did not, by the measures of success that a high school education is defined, achieve success. In spite of all their hard work, in spite of the right attitude, almost in mockery of their best efforts, none could get into a university.
Post apartheid South Africa had not delivered to them the bright future it promised. Why?
I mentioned in the beginning that two events led to my ponderings. So now on a separate occasion a discussion on the morality of affirmative action in my business ethics class got
me to thinking. The lecturer cited one of the famous arguments against affirmative action in South Africa and the particular statement he cited was made by a lecturer at my university (surprise, surprise), David Benatar.
He states and I quote “affirmative action will sometimes, perhaps often, give preference to individual ‘blacks’ who were not victims of relevant past injustice”. A statement so glib and lazy, rife with evidence of a closed mind. It is ludicrous to even attempt the suggestion that present day blacks are not in any way haunted by the scourge of past injustices perpetuated on the race as a whole.
Legislature of the apartheid era made it virtually possible for majority of the masses to etch out enough money to survive let alone obtain a formal education. It is this lack of education that made it impossible, even after apartheid and its laws, for a lot of people to obtain decent employment.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that majority of black South Africans today exist in poverty because their predecessors were not wealthy enough to afford them the opportunity of a good education, in fact in most cases, any education at all.
Now moving away from Mr Benatar and his incredulity and onto the real subject of my discourse, I dare say that there hase been a great oversight. I commend the efforts of the government on creating and implementing a rigorous affirmative action policy. This approach presented a much needed redress for the people of South Africa and has been instrumental in creating opportunities for many where even after apartheid they would have struggled to access said opportunities.
However, to truly redress means to right the wrong, that is to compensate and not only that, to rectify. This all sums to creating a better future for the youth and the importance of education in this regard has been grossly underestimated.
Whilst it is nice that black people can now get decent jobs and have their university fees paid for by financial aid, what must be said for the vast majority who could not make it into university or any other tertiary institution for that matter, because they did not achieve certain academic requirements because, the schools provided for them by the government have failed in their primary responsibility of educating them?
Is South Africa really moving forward when the level of education received by those in most public schools still resembles, in some aspects, what the youth of 1976 gave their lives to fight against? In this ever changing world where the criteria for success is ever rising, does the education provided by the government ; the only education affordable by majority of the masses ; give the average black learnrr a real chance at success?
In case you hit a mind block there, the answer is no. Learners with that background don’t realistically stand a chance of breaking the cycle and changing the circumstances surrounding their existence. We could wait for the government forever and hope they improve the system…
Meanwhile, every year another set of matriculants are failed by the system.
My thoughts towards solutions are these. We as citizens, yes ordinary citizens, who have been privileged to learn must take action. Not only by holding the government responsible and demanding a change, but also by making a difference. From tutoring even just one student in your spare time to going as far as starting Non-profits with a focus on creating a better quality of eduction in these schools or even throwing money at the problem by supporting already existent charities. All the same the learners get help and that is what matters most.
I feel like that was such a long speech but it just had to be said….
Yours in favour of a quality education for all