Categorized | Kasi Diaries

Will Education in South Africa ever speak to the African Child?

Let us all begin by agreeing that our past was bad, racist, anti-progressive and has killed much of our potential as a country. Only one race benefited from education then, the whites.

It will not help us at all looking at Bantu education today, since no one who studied Bantu education is still at school. It has been almost twenty years now, and when we discuss education, our discussion will be focused on education in the new dispensation of democracy. By so saying, I am not suggesting that the effects of Bantu education can still be seen today, but that is a topic for another day.

I am finding it hard to understand why Basic Education and Higher Education are separate ministries? Higher Education exists because of Basic Education, and what one does invariably affects the other, so I would have expected a sound single Education department to deal with the state of education. But we have two.

Politics aside, when will education in this country become relevant to the needs and aspirations of an African child?

Some of you might swear and make statistical arguments why an African-centred education is not desirable in a global economy, and the likes, but all these arguments are nonsense.

Starting with Basic Education, what are the subjects that pupils can take? Languages, Economics, Business Economics, Accounting, Maths, History, Geography, and the like. Since some quarters of our society see red every time it is said science and technology should be taught in our languages, for now let us exclude science from the discussion. Is there any other reason why the rest of these subjects are not taught in our languages?

Let me make two examples to stress my point. Let us take Economics as an example. Is there any reason at all why Economics content is not based on the African economies? Even today pupils still learn economic histories of European and American societies. What is wrong with providing an economic history of Africa when learning Economics? Wouldn’t that provide pupils a better chance to be good in the subject since what is being taught is what they know and can identify with? Wouldn’t that allow them to further develop economic theories when they reach varsity level since all these would be part of their everyday lives?

On History. Can anyone tell me what is significance of teaching our children the history of Europe and America? While none about Africa is provided? Are you telling me that twenty years into democracy we have failed to make changes even in small matters like these? When a Mosotho child is taught History at school and is told about all the European figures and states, none of which they know, how alienated is that child? Do Africans lack a history that we do not teach African History in our schools?

I must say that our government has let me down on education. Instead, they have gone all out to import education models that have not been tried anywhere else in the world. How much would it have cost us to simply prescribe African History in schools? How much effort would be required to bring the vast collection of history books written by Africans about Africa into our schools?

Before I talk about Higher Education, which is mysteriously no longer Tertiary Education, allow me to pose a simple question. What is the purpose of education, formal and informal, in society?

Our Higher Education seems to be worse than Basic Education in its content. I am currently a student at UNISA studying for a BA with majors in Linguistics and Theory of Literature. Initially, I had wanted to major in Sesotho, but after my first semester I dropped the subject. I was raised in a Basotho society and studied Sesotho first language at school, so I expect studying Sesotho at varsity to be in line with the level of education I got back in school. The subject was not even close to being Sesotho. In fact, it looks to me like one of those “learn to communicate in Sesotho” types. For starters, none of the content is in Sesotho! None of the content is about Basotho. Everything about the subject is English and their worldview. The lead lecturer is Afrikaans. I do not care how educated you might be, no person from another culture can learn Sesotho (whichever way) and end up knowing more Sesotho than I do. It just does not happen that way. Does that make any sense?

What is the result of this madness? It leads to less and less African students studying about Africa and its people because what is taught is total crap. It leads to more and more African students failing these subjects because they have absolutely nothing to do with Africa and its people.

Everything about our education system is foreign to me as a student. Linguistics, Theory of Literature, African Philosophy; nothing is remotely African about these subjects. Are you telling me that Africans do not have ancient(classic) languages to be studied? Are you telling me Africa did not have any form of civilisation before the arrival of settlers? Are telling me that Africa does not have any form of philosophy worthy of study? In Theory of Literature, are you telling me that African has absolutely no literary heritage to study? Having grown among Basotho, I can give you so many literary genres that must be studied. I can tell you about dithoko, dithotokiso, diboko, mohobelo, mangae, neletsano taba; and many others. Yet there is not a single sentence that acknowledges that Africa has got its own heritage. And guess what, I am dropping these subjects as well. They just do not appeal to me. In fact, I will go as far as to say they teach our children lies because they propose that Africa does not have anything worthy of study. They sow the seed that says African does not have any heritage nor historical past. How true is that?

But having said all these, a question must be directed to the ANC, as the liberating movement. Does the ANC see nothing wrong in this system? If my memory serves me well, South African has never had a white minister of education, so why do Black ministers of education find this acceptable?

By extension, can we honestly say we are surprised when African students do not take an active interest in education? The few academics we have heard of who have fought for change in education have all been conveniently “redeployed”. Where are the Professor Malegapuru Makgobas of these world? Wits kicked them out when they stood up and said Wits is an African university that must reflect this in its content.

I am left wondering if South Africa is not a curse to the rest of the continent? Our democracy seems to have come at a too high a price for the African child who must live in a democratic South Africa.

Some of us learnt Biology, Geography, Accounting, General Science, maths and other subjects in Sesotho in the old Qwaqwa. Yet today people claim science and technology are too advanced subjects for our languages. Is South Africa of today still a colonial post?

By Fezekile Futhwa

 (The views expressed in this article are not necessarily the views of Kasi Times)


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