“Youths are passed through schools that don’t teach then forced to search for jobs that don’t exist and finally left stranded in the street to stare at the glamorous lives advertised around them.” – Huey P Newton
Given that the South African Government’s National Development Plan assertion to “improve” Education, Training and Innovation because they are central to the long-term development of the country and core elements in eliminating poverty, reducing inequality and foundations of a equal society; it brings for a curious and to a large extent, a dim view on the starking dichotomy between its theory and actual practice. For a government that insists that “eduaction empowers people to define their identity, take control of their lives, raise healthy families, take part confidently in developing a just society and play an effective role in the politics and governance of their communities”, its actions on the very same education are appalling at worst.
Currently, the SA tertiary education sector is market-orientated, its primary objective is to produce people fit to feed the employment(labour?) needs of both the public and private sectors. And having further argued that higher education, at the backdrop of our history(and its sustained legacy), provides opportunities for social mobility which most often that not determines one’s access to equity, social justice and democracy. It is with the above-mentioned government’s assertions, that the sham the basic education system is, boggles the mind. It flies past even the most intelligent’s minds why would a government that insists on quality education through excellence in science ad technology, through foundational skills in areas such as mathematics, science, language, arts and ethics, neglect and maladminister the most essential phase of our education system, the basic one.
Is it incidental perhaps, the lowering of standards at high school level which contrasts the earlier assertions of quality assurance and the introduction of mathematical literacy at the expense of pure maths (not as its complimentary cousin) or is government deliberatley buffering the one area where equity and social justice are attainable in order to redress past injustices as well as usher in a new paradigm for the country? Lowering high school standards compromises access to higher education, which ironically, the government sees as a major stepping stone for social mobility but a sure access to equity, social justice and democracy.
The SA economic system is capitalist and its cardinal focus is maximazing of profit and growth of economy at all costs, through cheap and exploited labour. The education system serves to provide the system with a few “needed” high-level skills graduates and the rest(majority) will be provided by the semi-skilled sector of the population at a low cost. It is therefore, not in the best interests of the government which serves capital first and foremost, to practically implement and stay true to promises it makes in theory. In specific socialist political terms, the government’s own promises stiil do not speak directly to the fundmental questions facing our society, however their partial implementation would still defeat its main objective of enhancing inequality andstrengthening of capital at the expense of the majority of its citizens.
For the SA government to thrive, they have to sustain the status quo, the two-tier education system, where private education remains the priority and bedrock of the country’s economic “prosperity” and the traditional and historically advantaged, white universities like Stellenbosch, UCT, Rhodes, Wits etc. remains the core producers of these “high-level” skilled graduates, where formal employment is guaranteed and social mobility and its benefits of equity, social justice and democracy; while the rest of historically, disadvantaged black universities and universities of technology struggle thereby providing a large cohort of the less-skilled graduates with just a minimal access to social mobility and its fruits.
Development remains the rallying cry and justification for the maintainance of the status quo, the urge to be a 1st world country through neo liberal policies such as the GEAR strategy now evolved to the NDP while the poor gets poorer and rich are on high-gear. Is it then justifiable that development comes at the expense of a majority of the people who have always been marginalized and compromised without their consent? That education and a series of other rhetorics are used to fool the masses into thinking that there is a plan and they are part of that plan to transofm positively their own lives?
The envisaged vision where there is collective responsibilty and belonging, can only happen once the needs of the people are prioritized and education is not used as an elevation to birth-right priviliges like social justice, equity and democracy. Education in an unequal society is just another tool to perpetuate whatever crime inflicted agianst the masses; it is therefore for this reasons that education should not just be free, but both compulsory and communal, something which is not in the priority list of the government, let alone their minds and hearts.