Hi there, dear cherished audience.
The “likes” on a wordpress blog do not necessarily represent the audience we are actually reaching with our scribblings. I am delighted to know a lot of people from the South African educational reform community, as well as interested entrepreneurs, have been reading up on my opinionated evaluation of the trouble with the South African educational system in my previous posts!
Some commented on twitter how a government subsidized free education system could create a sense of entitlement counter productive to the sense of self-responsibility we are trying to instill into the South African public.
That is the whole trouble with South Africa, isn’t it. Entitlement. Offense. Opinions. I love to plainly look at facts. Is the current system working? Definitely not. Is the whole country’s business world struggling because of poorly educated laborers and employees not knowing the first thing about their job? Definitely yes.
Government financed schools and universities granting entry only on performance values and NOTHING else can quickly create a mindset shift towards personal responsibility to perform. If its free, there is no excuse “but we were poor”. It is not as one-dimensional, I know, and I am willing to engage in a detailed process of reform. I grew up in Germany. My parents didn’t have a car until I was 13 and we bought our first TV when I was 14. The German primary school goes only to grade 4. After that, pupils are strictly sorted into 3 different branches. One academic, one more accounting and management focused and one practical one preparing students for practical professions such as mechanics, chefs, service industry. Only the academic Branch leads up to grade 12. More than 50 percent of German pupils finish school at grade 9 or ten to continue training on the job. Only the best get accepted into university. If students fail at exams, they lose their right to study. This creates a much more performance oriented environment that what I currently observe in South Africa where matric is for everyone and everyone things they have a right to study. In the meantime in the rural areas there is still illiteracy and a general lack of scientific knowledge.
Hope is available. South Africa is a deeply religious nation, with people’s lives generally circling closely around their church. I have been working for an evangelical, Lutheran Mega-Church in Stuttgart, Germany before. Stable, community-involved, respected. South Africa is, sadly, deeply divided across denominations. I was surprised to discover that every stationery shop (CNA etc) stacks up on Joyce Meyer’s books and Christian movies. On the other hand, the traditional churches seem to have a strong fear of engaging in cooperation with the more, carefully put, lively, pentecostal churches although I have found some charismatic movements here to be more conservative than the evangelical church I have been serving in Germany! But some awesome, progressive minded folks get the goosebumps when my churches homepage mentions things like prophetic words although prophecy is an important biblical pillar of the way God communicates with His people.
Can we put our preferences aside for the greater good? We weren’t born into a denomination, and I love hearing a person’s whole life story before I draft an opinion. There are reasons why some feel safer and closer to God with the sound of a pipe organ and others need the element of dance to worship. Speaking of right and left brained … 🙂
I believe in South Africa and the whole African continent, churches are a crucial factor in future positive development. Churches are able to mobilize thousands, hundreds of thousands of volunteers to massively impact communities. Churches must also engage in fruitful dialogue with the powers that be, to bless, to inspire, to correct. I do not see church as a parallel sunday universe. I see church as the personified body of Christ pouring out blessings over the individual believer, their families, businesses, communities and the country as a whole.
In our church, there are no unemployed people. As pastors we are not greedy with our expertise. We care deeply about the individual and take a lot of time carefully assessing their strength and weaknesses, suggesting and even sponsoring courses for betterment, helping with CVs and job application. At our church, we network with local businesses to connect job seekers with applicable employment opportunities.
This year I want us to concentrate more on blessing the educational institutions in our town. In dialogue with other South African Education Activists, these are some points we find ALL churches should engage in supporting:
NUTRITION. Our children are hungry & can’t concentrate without food
In Europe schools generally provide breakfast and lunch for a minimum fee, children from needy backgrounds or families with lots of kids pay a reduced amount or get the meal free.
We need to put so much more pressure on the government, petitions and all to use OUR tax money for the education system, because in a decade, those kids will be the ones paying taxes. Need to get the government to understand the reasoning: Care for the young generation means eventually caring for themselves too. Yes, I hear the raised flags “do not promote a sense of entitlement”. In my opinion, every child is entitled to food. Rather give out free school lunches than child grants to teenage mothers who use it for fashion items.
It is easy and possible for churches to provide sandwiches for needy kids in a rotation system. Monday NG kerk, tuesdays the Anglicans, wednesdays the Faith church, thursdays AFM and friday the Jesus Freaks. With that amazing variety of churches in any given South African town, the kids would sure get a variety of sandwiches.
Parents also need to be taught about nutrition. I do that about once a year in a seminar at church and regularly in personal counseling. The food quality plays a big role in fighting concentration and behavioural problems as well. Churches can and HAVE TO be a place of practical life-style lessons.
My church www.emmanuellife.org has been sponsoring 2 youth workers in our local high school, primary school and Air Force Base school for the past 5 years. We have done so first through Gateway/Clay (don’t know if you heard of them, excellent program) and now on our own account because the requirements in our community grew very high. All three principals commend us on the measurable difference the Youth Worker makes in the school by having an on-site counselor (drug use gone dramatically back) and free after school programs (Jan is doing Hip Hop and won some national awards with the kids) as well as life orientation classes.
I myself have been actively involved teaching free classes at the local primary school before my babies came along. Now our Children’s Church manager whom I am training is doing that while I oversee our preschool leading 50 children from age 2 to grade R.
What I dream about improving: Giving free motivational sessions to teachers in rural areas. Even with my white Afrikaans teachers I discover the educational psychology is as good as non existent. Varsity seems to have taught only the subject knowledge and not the pedagogics of how to get information across?
Classes are way too big, and most subjects are taught frontally, not via group sessions. Rural schools and even lots of classes here in Louis Trichardt that I witnessed (perks of being a foreigner, you can just ask to come in and learn) do school according to the parrot method. Repetition instead of intrinsic understanding.
Pastors are able to offer once in a while motivation and practical insight away from the plain subject, into the psychologies of learning.
Besides that, of course yes, pastors need to be there to debrief teachers after traumatic events. Many teachers deal with violence on a regular basis, and do not know how to respond to students personal tragedies well.
On March 3rd I am doing a trauma counseling seminar with Barbara Louw at our local church, many teachers will attend.
PARENTING GUIDANCE: Educators need parents who know how to be a good parent
Churches are able to offer good parenting courses. So far I did two on my own, plus I am having a weekly class for young mothers with toddlers, giving tips about early stimulation.
It would be marvelous to connect over those uneccessary denominational boundaries to offer regular parenting courses. We all need support, they just don’t make the children like they used to 🙂 I plan in bringing in La Leche legue as well to start a nursing support group. Post Natal depression is more common than we admit, and it all starts there.
READING SUPPORT: Most effective literacy programmes are where adults read w/ learners
Many churches teem with individuals who would love to get involved at some level. At least in my group of churches a lot of people’s aspirations are towards a place on stage in the praise and worship team. Getting individuals to take responsibility for a class of our multi-racial children’s church deserves a medal, it is not easy. A lot of ladies love going to the old age home, I think it is because it looks sweet and social to arrive with a basket of goods. No problem with that. We need to push a reader-mentorship program and I owuld not like to invent the bike over again. Can’t we have a nation wide, advertised program like that where churches can oversee and support it in their local communities? The better the posters and TV ads, the more volunteers. People do a lot if it makes them feel good about themselves.
LOVE & APPRECIATION for teachers so that they know how important their work is
Yes, churches are called to encourage the community. It is as simple as packing some surprises for the teachers!
AFTER-SCHOOL CENTRES for our children. Parents work & children need to be cared for
Currently busy working on that here in my church. The need is big, the money to employ somebody is little. Again there is a big call for volunteers. If Suzy would do a craft once a week, instead of her ladies craft club she would teach little children? If we could get Pete to coach some cricket on thursdays? …
MOTIVATING learners & their parents to make education a key priority!
Our churches motto this year is “raising the standard. In practically every sermon we can start changing mindsets about sharpening your skills!
Churches are able to MOBILISE active citizenship & urge all adults to help lead change in education.
Let me know what you think and ask your local pastor to read this post. Please.