William Saunderson-Meyer
William Saunderson-Meyer

School kids pay the cost of political schizophrenia

The African National Congress is inclined towards self-defeating behaviour. Nowhere has this political schizophrenia been as glaring as in the government’s inability to deliver a sound basic education.

The right to education is a cornerstone of the Freedom Charter, the founding document of the modern ANC. Appropriately so, since there is a surfeit of research showing that aside from obvious personal rewards, a good school system is critical to economic success and correlates with a country’s performance on every indicator of social wellbeing. And if that’s not enough to focus officialdom’s energy, it should remember that the apartheid policy of restricting black South Africans to rudimentary learning culminated in the 1974 riots.

Unfortunately, the ANC has taken the woeful state schooling system it inherited and rather than rehabilitate it, has trashed it further. Public schooling has been battered by failed curriculum changes; by the hasty retrenchment of experienced teachers; by the closure, belatedly reversed, of training colleges; by the disbandment of the schools inspectorate; by the perennial failure to deliver textbooks and most damagingly, by government’s tolerance of a teacher union militancy that has corroded any surviving culture of learning.

For what it spends on education — R24 000 per child per annum — South Africa scores among the lowest returns internationally on every criterion. In contrast, Zimbabwe spends R216 per child per annum but according to the United Nations is one of the most literate African countries, with levels of numeracy and English-language fluency that put SA to shame.

One explanation for Zimbabwe’s comparative success is that parental involvement and teacher dedication have somehow survived 15 years of economic and political turmoil. There is also predictability and accountability. Zimbabweans still sit the British A and O level exams and pupils know that if they fail a year they will have to repeat it, unlike their counterparts in SA, with its elastic grading standards.

Given the level of SA’s dysfunction, one would expect the government to do everything possible to keep lubricated those few educational cogs still operational, such as the independent schools. Instead it is shamelessly reneging on paying the subsidies that keep low-fee independents going.

Five provinces – Limpopo, Mpumalanga, KwaZulu-Natal, Eastern Cape and North West – have defaulted upon or arbitrarily reduced the pupil subsidy they are obligated to pay in terms of the government’s education policy. This affects 630 schools and 130 000 learners, who are currently paying a maximum of R15 000 a year in fees.

The provinces’ explanation that they can’t afford the subsidy is rubbish. Only about 0.2% of provincial education budgets is spent on the subsidy.

More likely an explanation is a lingering ideological distaste within ANC circles towards private education, which is seen as elitist – although with two thirds of children in private schools being African, most of them not from wealthy families, it is clearly not – and a threat to dirigiste ANC control.

This is classical foot-shooting stuff. Many, if not most, of the low-fee independents exist because there is no state school, or it’s of very poor quality. If the state has to take over the education of these independent school children, it will cost the taxpayer almost double the subsidy amount.

What the ANC perhaps most dislikes about a burgeoning independent school sector is that it is a constant and humiliating reminder of government failure.

Independent school pupil numbers have doubled in a dozen years to over half a million kids in 1 571 schools, of which 451 were established in the past five years. In comparison, state schools have 11.9 million ”learners”, marginally down from 12 million in 2007. Since the formerly white schools have more applicants than they can take, it’s perfectly clear that African pupils and parents confronted with failed or overcrowded state schools are voting with their feet.

The Public Protector and the Human Rights Council are investigating the subsidy issue and there is also an on-going legal appeal. It’s disheartening that any such chivvying of government should be necessary.

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    • http://southafricana.blogspot.com Dave Harris

      Education per pupil costs R24000 in SA vs and R214 in Zim!!!
      This is a prime example of misinformation designed to mislead, since the salaries, cost of living, government subsidies, inflation, exchange rates are VASTLY different from SA. Similar to the delusional claims in his previous blogs where pulls out of some orifice the billions and trillions of rands in government corruption.
      However, no mention of the billions of rands in infrastructure spent on SA’s white schools built over the centuries that are still largely being enjoyed by the beneficiaries of apartheid.

      Furthermore, why should Africa aspire to the British A and O level exams – deliberately rigged to favor eurocentric cultures peddling white supremacy to create corporate slaves instead of students capable of critical thinking!

      Fingering African pupils and parents is disingenuous and racist, since parents and pupils across all races have bought into the snake oil sold by mainstream media portraying public schools as hell on earth.

      Yes, our Constitution has enshrined the right to an education for every child but certainly not the eurocentric education you want them to have that just one step up from the centuries of Bantu Education!

    • Charlotte

      Remember the kid who always disrupted the class? … Remember the one who kept making rude remarks? … Remember the bully? … Remember the dunce? … Remember the scowling, long-faced loner? .. . Remember the guy who was always boasting and landed up after school becoming a nothing? … Remember the one who kept his identity a secret and made rude phone calls? … Remember the one who always wanted to be the centre of attention? … Remember the bore? …
      Okay, now picture them all rolled into one ….
      … Now picture ‘Dave Harris’ at school.

      And, ag shame, man, he probaby had the benefit of a fairly good BOA education as well – and Shame on him! – that he can now read and write!

    • Lalapanzi

      Well said William – pitty that Min. Angie surely prefers not to read articles like this!

    • bernpm

      Thanks Charlotte!

    • http://southafricana.blogspot.com Dave Harris

      Hmm, Charlotte’s Web of Deception again unravels in hysterical insults instead of questioning William’s bizarre comparisons and insults by calling our miraculous post-apartheid progress especially in education enrollment, a fundamental principle of our Constitution, a “political schizophrenia”.
      Anyway, here is a more appropriate comparison of these two countries based on UNESCO Institute for Statistics http://i48.tinypic.com/24y3c51.jpg instead of outlandish fabrications from William Saunderson-Meyer.

    • Suzie

      It’s not so much schizophrenia – it’s a deliberate policy to keep people uneducated. The ANC, like all totalitarian movements, does not believe in education – it believes in indoctrination, and keeping people as dumb as possible. It relies on propaganda trolls like Harris to trot out unconvincing lies – but surely even the ANC could lift the standard of its propaganda a bit.

    • Neuren Pietersen

      At the risk of ganging up on the odd one, Charlotte great post.

    • Zeph

      To asses the potential of a nation go look at their libraries. The state of our libraries and their severe underfunding and mismanagement reflects our governments’ commitment to lifelong learning – pathetic.
      We will remain a Nation of Dunces until we have leaders put off short term fixes for long term solutions; but ‘long term’ in political currency has no value so we might as well forget that story.

    • Zeph

      …leaders who put…

    • thandinkosi sibisi

      My questions to the Dave Harisses of this world are simple:
      (1) Where did they go to school? If they are Black and over 50 they almost crrtainly went to schools like Pax or Setotolwane if they lived in Limpopo, Healdtown and St Johns if they lived in the Eastern Cape , Marianhill and Inanda if they lived in KZN.
      (2) How do these former centres of excellence for blacks during apartheid years
      compare to typical black schools that the poor who cannot afford schools like Westville Boys ( one of the best ex model C in KZN) or Michaelhouse( an expensive private school).
      (3) Where do the Dave Harisses send their kids to school?
      If they have answered 1,2 and3 honestly, the discussion is over! only issues that are debateble need to be debated not ” plain truths”

    • K Mzala

      There is no sense of excellence in the ANC. vote for change. vote AZAPO

    • Charlotte

      @ K Mzala
      One has no doubt that people will vote for change.
      Actually what virtually everyone is thinking about voting for these days – and which provides great flexibility for voters – is ABANC. .
      ….(Anything But ANC)

    • Soge

      It does not really matter; what matters is that you have a no apartheid world to enjoy in wxcellence.

    • http://southafricana.blogspot.com Dave Harris

      @thandinkosi sibisi
      Not sure where your line of questioning is leading to but:
      (1) What does it matter where Dave Harris went to school?
      (2) Are you implying that these “centers of excellence” during apartheid are what we should aspire to? Are you comfortable with kids being indoctrinated with a Christian Nationalist education?
      (3) Again, what does it matter where Dave Harris sends is kids to school, if he has any 😉
      You illogical arguments seem to suggest that the apartheid schooling system was better, in which case, this is a futile discussion.

    • Tofolux

      @thandinkosi.charlotte, neuren et al. I am aware that you must be salivating at this latest offering of propaganda. Let me ask ,what are we talking about here? Is it Quality or Equity? @William. you conclude that the ”ANC has an ideological distaste towards private education becos this is a threat to ANC control” and “private education is a humiliating reminder of govt falure” Can I ask how you reach this conclusion in the fact of the Schools Act and other overarching(eg constitution) laws? You are correct when you say that no-one other than the ruling party has had so much influence on education in the history of this country. In fact, education was the springboard for our glorious freedom. It is rather ironic to claim that non-private education lacks credibility when it was the task of the ANC to dismantly apartheid education in the private system. Yep they did not come up with anything becos like you(zim & british) they looked outside(outsourced) for solutions without looking inward for answers. But let me remind you of Siyabulela Xuza, a talented rural youth who is not a product of private education. I also want to remind you of all the learners who pass year in and year out and whom are not products of private educ. Noticeably you have failed to hold up 1 sample of simple methodology to support yr argument and sure I wud be intrsted in reliable data or assessments. Once again what are you talking abt here? is it quality or equity?

    • DeeGee

      @Dave Harris – no, not quite. The point being made by thandinkosi in point 3 is a simple one: if govt schools are not good enough for our elected officials, then what on earth are they doing about improving said govt schools? I can absolutely assure you that not every Minister and MP sends their children to a govt school.

    • thandinkosi sibisi

      @ dave harris

      an ” illogical argument ” is one which is logically inconsistent
      I have not presented an “argument” but asked questions.( which you did not answer)

      since I have not presented an argument ( yet) there is no consistency or inconsistency to be tested
      Answer the questions!

    • http://southafricana.blogspot.com Dave Harris

      @thandinkosi sibisi
      Isn’t your line of questioning leading up to the illogical argument that the apartheid schooling system was better? I’m sure you’re not using this forum just to get to know me hey? LOL
      I value my anonymity and I’m sure you respect this democratic right, so I must respectfully decline to answer your questions.

      Did it ever occur to you that some government officials perhaps send their kids to alternative schools for religious or security reasons? This is a common practice all over the world.

    • ConCision

      Et Tu, SADTU?
      Teachers Want Salary Top Up Rate
      To Match Learners’ Drop Out Rate

      Because learners only need 30% to pass
      They are often drunk, bunk or come late for class,
      It’s not learners, its teachers we’re talking of here.
      That’s why SADTU ‘education’ is such a farce.

      They have not learned how to teach
      And they cannot teach how to learn
      But each year they go on strike
      So they can do less and increase what they earn

      If ineptitude and corruption is the name of the game
      SADTO comes lst in the Hall of Shame.
      Computers would teach ‘learners’ better than they
      And a computer doesn’t strike and demand more pay

    • The Critical Cynic

      ConCision # – could I have your permission to share some of your poems with my friends, they are too good for TL alone?

      Dave, Toffy – the “education” system is almost completely disfunctional for far too many YOUNG souls. Whatever our PAST history the PRESENT reality is still one of woefully inadequate delivery that is failing these masses of CHILDREN – the future of our country, who by the way have no vote and only a little voice with which to decry their lot, which is a dismal offering of poor teaching on the downward slide of international competitiveness (as is SA as a country, but that’s due to Apartheid)

      Our children (most of whom are black, you have the stats) are being set-up for failure and a difficult life where they must increasingly compete on the GLOBAL stage against ADULTS who have been far better PREPARED than the system being currently foisted upon them here in SA. You can defend this situation, as you do each and every F*&kUP staring us in the face here in the land of perfect government – and yes, we all know nowhere is perfect, but many countries are streaking ahead of us in case you haven’t noticed – compare our progress to Korea over the past 20 years for example – actually don’t compare, that way you can continue to deny stark reality and stay in your ANC fantasy bubble world – or like the whites and BOA’s of Apartheid SA, one day you will be forced to face the monster that was ONCE a high-minded liberation movement

    • thandinkosi sibisi

      @Dave Harris

      A treatise on logic according to Dave Harris:

      1 Major Premise:” It is an illogical argument that the apartheid system of schooling was better”

      2 Minor premise : ” Answering the questions (honestly) leads to ” an illogical argument” ( The statement ” your line of questioning leads up to an illogical argument” is identical in meaning to the minor premise)

      3 Convlusion “I ……decline to answer the questions” (Translation by 1 and 2; Idecline to answer the questions, because answering them will expose me as “illogical” In thinking that “The apartheid system of schooling was better”

      Congratulations Dave! Welcome To the ranks of ” Counter revolutionaries” . There are many closet ” counter revolutionaries” like you.( Counter revolutionary? What a dirty phrase”! What an insult!)

    • ConCision

      Thank you Critical Cynic. I am creatively complimented. Considering that Thought Leader is a public space which anyone can read, you are therefore completely at liberty and welcome to circulate the terse verse and worse (attributed to ‘ConCision’ of course)

      I would also like to say that I am always in agreement with what you write and that you express yourself exceptionally well.
      Why not also introduce your friends to Thought Leader?

      And on that score, we must compliment Thought Leader for giving writers – like W.S.M. and others of note (with 1 or 2 not so) – the space to air their views and provide a marvellously topical, varied and up to the minute platform for friendly, forceful and fiesty debate.

      Y I like Like T. Leader
      In like The New Age Way
      2 like Speak These Days
      Thought Leader Has like Become A Way
      To like Get All The Latest Views of the Day

    • ConCision

      2nd Thoughts
      Shocked by comments now appearing on some blogs
      With false and ferocious attacks and altercations
      ‘Factious’, ‘fierce’ and ‘feral’ should be added
      To the previous alliterations.

    • Thabi

      Funny how bullies like ‘Harris’ are always cowards. Whilst attacking others, using race labels and personal attacks, Dave gets all coy and cowardly when others ask him a few straight questions. Bullies are all the same.

    • Tofolux

      @Critcyn, this patronising is a bit much dont you think? Oh and by the way, pray tell. what impact globalisation, technology, industrialisation, the triple challenge etc has had on education. Please state the point of departure (ie worldwide) for your very ”objective analysis”. I thought these indicators might assist you and your wannabe ”poet” friend.