To listen to the ANC government and its leaders talk about education in South Africa, you’d think that the rest of the world would be beating a path to our door to find out how we do it.
Every year, we have stellar pass rates in our matric (senior) certificate exams – the green tick for a successful mastery of our high school syllabus.
And we boast loud and long about our “smart” classrooms and our electronic tablet-equipped pupils ready to lead the “Fourth Industrial Revolution”.
Ordinary people know it’s a universe away from that deliberately optimistic – some would say misleading – view of our school system.
Many pupils – in supposedly well-resourced urban education districts, never mind the impoverished rural ones – don’t have desks and chairs or books. Every year, children drown in pit latrines in rural schools because of the lack of proper toilet facilities.
Fewer than five out of every 100 children who begin Grade 1 actually get a degree.
And among those who do graduate at university, there is a concern among professional bodies about their knowledge and competence and even basic language skills.
In most international benchmarking studies of critical subjects such as maths and science, we, as a country, do poorly.
No doubt that will continue today, as Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga releases the results of the 2018 Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development Teaching and Learning International Survey.
The ANC needs to stop using education as a political weapon by blaming failures on the “legacy of apartheid” and labelling criticism racist. The government needs to ensure all school pupils are given what they need to succeed and to stop wasting time harassing former Model C schools on myriad issues.
Before we do anything, though, we need to admit this is a national crisis. Constant praise-singing masks the real issues.