Today was the big “Back to school” day in South Africa.
Our new little preschool opened and I was excited to see all these expectant little faces taking in my every word. As always, the big responsibility of speaking into a young person’s life hits me. I used to be a serious little girl who felt very deserted being left in Kindergarten. As the oldest of four I had no basic frame of reference like watching an older sister surviving preschool or actually making a success of Kindergarten. Being the only Christian in an otherwise great but strictly atheist, communist schooling system also did not help to boost my confidence. When talking about Jesus to my class mates, the teacher would rebuke me in front of them saying: “There is no such thing as Jesus” and afterwards take me aside apologizing: “You understand, we can not talk about Jesus in public. I believe in Him, too, but we need to be careful”. At 4 years old, you simply do not understand. But I promised myself I would one day have my own school where kids can follow their heart without being taught how to be false. By the age of 9 I had drafted big A2 sheets of strategy maps and sketches of my school including schedules and staff needs, since I wanted it to be a whole community. In a way, this little girl has not changed at all, sitting on a mat in front of the children I tread careful as not to discourage their souls from trusting and, eventually, blossoming.
Unfortunately being a teacher does not, by default, carry an ethical standard in South Africa. As reported on radio Jacaranda’s tweets, at some schools the teachers hadn’t shown up by 8am and the parents and children were left standing outside. There are too many poorly equipped schools in South Africa, too many parents who can not afford to buy stationary and school uniforms. Remember, in South Africa there is a high number of single mothers or even grand mothers raising their families by themselves.
Educational Science and Psychology are not emphasised enough in training and appointing teachers. The love of learning is not a national trait in South Africa.
My own granny who was born in 1914, always spoke with a trembling voice about being “allowed to learn” as the highest, sweetest joy of her childhood. Books were regarded as a treasure, nobody would think of burning them as an act of striking for higher wages.
I strongly feel South Africa needs a movement towards excellence in Education. Teachers should be highly paid and hand picked. I love the Danish approach of requiring would-be teachers to first have a “real life job” before even being allowed to study for a degree in teaching, as to make sure that your school teachers are successful people who know about life and not some wallflowers or lazy butts who did not find anything else to do. Teaching is a vocation, a calling, something done with passion.
South Africa’s school periods of 30 minutes are definitely too short and the class size of over 30 learners too large to establish any quality education. I would have died in such a setting.
For this year I hope to connect with other’s passionate about education, to help inspire teachers and politicians alike to brainstorm together about making some drastic changes in South Africa’s approach to public schooling.
Right now, there are over 300.000 children under 16 not attending school although they should.
Citypress reported the following on sunday:
KwaZulu-Natal’s figure – which represents 5.75% of children in that age group in the province – is the highest, followed by the remaining provinces:
» The Northern Cape – with the country’s smallest population, 9 087 children or 4.6% of that age group were not at school;
» The North West – 23 754, or 4.28% of children in that age group, were not at school;
» The Western Cape – 32 600, or 4.12% of children in that age group, were not at school;
» The Eastern Cape – 45 621, or 3.68% of children in that age group, were not at school;
» Gauteng – 50 705, or 3.41% of children in that age group, were not at school;
» The Free State – 13 614, or 3.68% of children in that age group, were not at school;
» Mpumalanga – 21 494, or 3.03% of children in that age group, were not at school; and
» Limpopo – 18 939, or 1.85% of children in that age group, were not at school.
In a single district, KwaZulu-Natal’s Kwa Sani, 20.96% of its 1 598 children aged between seven and 15 were not enrolled when the census data was collected.
Other districts where high numbers of pupils were not attending school included the Western Cape’s Kannaland, where 15.36% of the area’s 4 140 children aged between seven and 15 were not in school, and KwaZulu-Natal’s Impendle.
In Impendle, 13.28% of 7 072 children aged seven to 15 were not in school.
It’s not clear how many of these children have never attended school and how many dropped out of the system after a few years.
How do we want to produce refined goods that have a high market value without an educated, motivated work force? How can we prevent crime, when so many youth are idle and without knowledge about how to build a respectable future for themselves?
Often the only input these youth have are TV and shady semi-legals …
South Africa’s entrepreneurs are extremely creative but often lack technical know-how and skilled base-level personnel. Today a guy died from a heart-attack in Cape Town because his hotel was double-booked. When I heard this I just thought: I am already so used to hotel staff not following up on bookings, the need to double and triple check every commission and still not expect an outcome has become second nature. Which shouldn’t be that way. There is no base-agreement on morals and work ethics, that’s why we all constantly get an “eish” from bank staff etc etc. South Africa has awesome natural resources. For eample, South Africa has 25% of the world’s arrable land, but in 2010 we spent $30 billion on food imports because we do not have the skills to transform raw product into refined goods that would retrieve a high market price. Education can change all that.
Plus: Educated people get a higher salary. Money in the hands of the people will enable them to buy good local produce rather than cheap, unhealthy mass made junk. A great example, in my opionion, for a local company that is trying to make a difference is Woolworth Food. When I came to South Africa 8 years ago, few people worried about MSG and Tatrazine in their diets. Woolworth were the first in South Africa to remove additives such as tartrazine, aspartame and added MSG from all their own-brand food. Woolworths only sells free range whole eggs and their exclusive range of Ayrshire dairy products is free of rBST growth hormones. It’s the only south African yoghurt I like, but it is of course pricy. If there is a broader market for healthy produce, it will become more affordable.
Why is Lindt chocolate, imported from Europe, the epitome of a good chocolate in South Africa? Is it because locally made chocolate is not that “lekker” (delicious) or is it the mindset behind the brand? Few South Africans even know it’s the conching that makes Lindt chocolate that smooth, and we can train our own chocolatiers to do the same, so that local chocolate doesn’t have to taste like there is flour in it.
If we focus on Education, we can do both. A new generation of skilled workforce is needed to locally produce high standard goods and to make the consumer understand the repercussions of buying local rather than imported goods.
There needs to be drive behind a new move towards making local SA products sexy and high quality (we are already much better than “made in China” hey?).
All is linked and it all begins with education. People who do not know about genetic manipulated corn will think “once I eat Kellog’s cornflakes for brekkie I have arrived”. (African school kids truly see it that way: eat maize porridge and you are poor, eat rice and your are better, eat stuff out of a square, printed box and you are tops!)
Educated people don’t prefer junk but home-grown goodness without the sickening additives, right. Educated people know about the chain effects of buying local. Educated people prefer a loving partner to gang raping a girl on the streets (South Africa has the highest rape rate in the world). Educated people stand by their families and strive to be a role model for their children.
South Africans need a new togetherness instead of fighting among the clans – it’s us showing the rest of the globe. This is THE rainbow nation, the one that managed to overcome hate with love. Greatest creativity! I am from Europe and I think SA fashion is a billion times cooler, why go and by DH at Trueworth. Can we not change the symbols of success to be local?
That’s all for now, I am for sure coming back to edit this. But now I am going to follow my dreams … on the pillow!