As we celebrate Freedom Day in South Africa and wish to see more positive things in our country, I, as a young person, am saddened by the state of basic education, particularly in rural and townships schools. As we celebrate, we talk about sacrifices made by different people on different levels, heroines and heroes who fought shamelessly for the liberation of this beloved South Africa. Some people sacrificed their lives, souls, and families for a child of South Africa not to have to face Bantu education which was intended to be a lower class education system reserved only for people of BLACK skin colour.
Sacrifices have been made by comrades and compatriots to ensure that children of all races receive the same quality of education within one system. But it seems to be perpetual that the kids coming from townships and rural areas continue to receive a substandard education compared to suburban and town schools. Most learners coming from rural school can’t communicate fluently in other languages, which are required in the working environment, such as English. The majority of these learners are not even doing mathematics, though we envisage producing learners with the requisite skills so that we can be a fast developing state. My question to all personnel involved in basic education sector, which includes teachers and provincial and national leadership, is where are the sacrifices to liberate our African children? Are these strikes we always see part of the sacrifices to enlighten a child from impoverished background? If so, in which way? Is this part of active citizenry? Complaints, particularly from public servants with the encouragement of the unions, seem to be never ending in our societies.
It continues to be the norm in our country to complain about resources, failures of government and so on, yet the same people who are complaining either haven’t done their work at all or they don’t do it properly. There is no striving for excellence, yet people always want more rewards.
The South African Democratic Teachers’ Union (Sadtu) has made a call to all their members to embark on a strike to oust Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga and departmental director-general Bobby Soobrayan. Though we all see the malfunction and incompetence within the department, leaving the neediest learners unattended — for whom education is the only avenue for their liberation from the relentless cycle of poverty — is not a solution. If it’s a solution to Sadtu, it means they remedying the problem while creating another big problem.
Everybody knows that most learners who are not passing well during exam time are the learners who come from impoverished backgrounds. And the most unemployable and inadmissible matric learners come from the same background. So if Sadtu and the teachers boycott classes and leave our learners unattended, is this the type of FREEDOM we are celebrating? If the teachers and their unions in our country continue to behave the way they do, HF Verwoerd should be celebrating wherever he is, because our education personnel continue to apply his Bantu Education Act No 47 of 1953. It’s not that problems in the basic education department are unknown; the department has been facing a crisis for a long time. But Sadtu halting service provision to demand that a certain minister must vacate their position is like Popcru calling all police to strike and allowing criminal activity to flourish because ministers should leave. Would that action help the country? If anything happens, would we able to reverse it? The truth is a big no.
Sadtu is playing with the futures of the neediest learners. It would be prudent for all South Africans to hold back and ask themselves that, what does FREEDOM mean to them? What does it entail to be in a democratic state? Which values and sacrifices come with living in a democratic country?
Democracy shouldn’t be abused at the expense of other people’s lives. We all envisage a very progressive country. But we shall need to hold one anothers hand and sacrifice to liberate one another, though we may not get rewards for that.
Khethelo Xulu is a master’s researcher in medical sciences at the University of Cape Town; One Young World ambassador; SA’s Brightest Young Minds alumni and UCT Emerging Leaders alumni. He currently offers career guidance, mentorship, science workshops to high school students within the Obuka tribal authority outside Empangeni, KwaZulu-Natal.