I write this letter as a concerned former scholar of South Africa’s basic education system. In the years that I was in school I was introduced to different learning curriculums you changed our curriculum from NSC, to OBE and finally to CAPS. In each of these we were your trial and era generation. From increasing to decreasing the minimum pass mark. I matriculated in 2014, according to me I failed mathematics but according to the basic education department I passed mathematics with 30%. The Female Fear Factory and South Africa’s Nightmare of Rape and GBV Many of our matriculants come from schools that are:
Overcrowded, this reduces a teacher’s ability to help those who need the most help and forces her to teach at a moderate pace frustrating both the learners who take time to understand new work and those who have the ability to understand new work at a glance.
Have inadequate infrastructure, firstly many of our schools are not disability friendly, and many learners with disabilities struggle to get around in schools. When I was in primary school, learners had to volunteer to take a fellow student up and down the stairs because our schools are not disability friendly. Secondly some schools have buildings that are collapsing while others do not have buildings at all. In the last few years social media has highlighted on the inadequacy of school infrastructure in the Eastern Cape among other provinces that have problems. School staff members do not have good offices and furniture so as to file and have good administration processes for our schools. Finally, Sanitation systems in some schools are disastrous, I am certain you heard of a case of a young boy who fell into a toilet pit and passed on. Inadequate sanitation systems can cause health hazards for children and as such it makes no sense why good sanitation systems are not in place or rather prioritized in our schools.
Lack in learning material, lack of textbooks, science experiment tools and basic stationery is problematic to our education system. It hinders teachers from teaching learners the best way they can and it also disadvantages our learners in that they are not presented with practical means of learning because of lack of resources. Some schools have unlimited printing abilities others have teachers making learning material by hand, this wastes a teacher’s time as she could have used the time to find ways to make education for her learners better and efficient. In some cases you have learners sharing textbooks, once again this frustrates both learners who take time to understand new work and those who can understand new work at a glance. Many of our schools do not have libraries, yet the department of basic education promotes a culture of reading. Many of our parents are illiterate as a result of South Africa’s history. How then can children read if our schools do not have space where they are encouraged to read and a space where they have different reading materials at their disposal? Lack of teachers, many schools do not have enough educators, some educators are overworked than others. You cannot expect underpaid educators to be overworked, under-resourced and also work in inadequate infrastructures. It is a recipe for disaster, hence many go to more advantaged schools or change their career path, and the department of basic education does not make their job any easier. They also work with children from different backgrounds some worse than others, and it is here where teachers are expected to be social workers and educators at the same time, this issue speak on the lack of social workers in our schools. Learners are not informed that they have a person they can talk to nor does the department of basic education prioritise our leaners’ mental health a vital part of their academic career. In addition to lack of teachers the already underpaid, overworked teachers, have to be teachers, extra class teachers, extra mural activity coaches and social workers at the same time? What about our teachers’ mental health and physical health. Matriculants who come from these academic backgrounds are expected to compete with learners from advantaged backgrounds. Learners who are taught how to use ICT at the tender age of 10, learners who read at a much younger age and in high school can already read an adult average of words per minute. Many of the learners who are disadvantaged by the above mentioned factors are black learners, and as a result suffer in institutions of higher learning. This is when you see high dropout level in institutions of higher learning, it is not because the learners are not capable of graduating it is because the basic education system has somewhat failed them. In the chopping and changing of our curriculum, you have failed our learners. I say you have failed the learners because one would assume that the curriculum changed so as to better educate learners and offer them opportunities to learn about themselves and the world at large. Yet the department of education has failed learners over and over again because our curriculum is very much Eurocentric. Many of our learners aspire to be everything but African. African history and its heroes and Heroines is brushed through like a shooting star. Yet the history of the colonisers is embraced and emphasised as though it has benefits for the African child. When will the basic education curriculum embrace African culture, languages, history and literature? Fortunately and unfortunately this letter is not all complains and no solutions. Please take time to strengthen our curriculum and its minimum pass mark. We cannot continue to be subjected to low pass marks in primary and secondary schools only to be expected to have higher marks in institutions of higher learning, the department is working backwards on this matter. The pass mark for all modules should be 50% as is in institutions of higher learning. We have many graduates and youth sitting at home whom are unemployed, deploy them at different schools in the provinces to manage extra classes and extra curricula activity in our schools. Give them necessary training and resources to fulfil their work as extra class facilitators. The same unemployed youth as well as high school learners should be deployed in their communities to start reading clubs as to promote a reading culture in our communities for the young and old. Through these young people you will have a clear indication of what is needed in their respective schools and how better to solve problems in the said schools. The basic department of education will not have to employ people to do external reports on what is needed in the schools. Those in the schools will inform the department and write reports which the department can use to adequately distribute resources and if resources are being mismanaged, platforms should be given for community members to state their concerns on mismanagement of resources. Schools should be encouraged to host fundraisers for grade 11 students, so that they may have money to apply to different institutions of higher learning and to be able to write the required NBT tests. At the same time learners should be adequately informed about the application processes, required documents, financial aid application, application fees and NBT tests.
The department of basic education should work at a rapid rate to reduce the overcrowding of schools, inadequate infrastructures and improve the provision of learning material, mental health awareness among many other issues affecting different schools in the country. Unfortunately this letter has not highlighted all the concerns we have with the basic education system but it has tried to highlight the prevalent issues and highlight that together with the youth of respective communities the department of basic education can work towards a better education system that will advance, educate and promote success for the African child, through an Afrocentric curriculum and spaces that allow for learning and development. Kind regards, Aluwani Ramarumo (A concerned citizen and student)