In 1987 I visited Aotearoa, the land of the long white cloud, that is the Maori – the natives of Aotearoa – their name for New Zealand. Then New Zealand had a population of a little more than three million, ten universities and no unemployed graduates. South Africa had a population of 33 million, 11 times more, and ten universities also!
I went there to address the students in all the universities about black consciousness. In addition to touring the universities, I also visited preschools. To my amazement, the people who were employed in these preschools were all graduates. They monitored and looked after the psychological, intellectual, health and nutritional needs of the children. It was here where they early detected the future development direction of the children. In South Africa, 23 years after the so-called independence, that is, in 2017, children still drown in a dirty disused swimming pool; burn from boiling water and die mysteriously in unregistered crèches which are manned by untrained personnel. That goes to show how seriously the ruling party takes the education of our children!
As I was touring the preschools, I also came across many preschools where the Maori were teaching their children their own languages in their own languages. The British had prohibited the Maori from speaking to and teaching their children in their languages. The movement to teach their children their languages was still in its nascent stages then. In South Africa we are bussing our children to white schools. The black kids have to wake up in ungodly hours in order to arrive early at distant white schools in town. Schools in the townships have been closed because of this. Some children are not taught their vernacular, let alone get taught in their own languages, at home they are spoken to not in their home languages.
Even the transport that is used to transport these children to the white schools is not regulated. Because it is not regulated, transporting school children to white schools has become a roaring business. The transport operators charge even when the schools are closed. Some use unsuitable vehicles, others use vehicles that are not roadworthy, they overload. The ruling party is not doing anything about it. How often have we read about fatal accidents involving the transportation of schoolchildren?
Now the government has introduced a new scheme, that of helping students who have failed Matric. The scheme is floundering and the Department of Basic Education is wondering why it cannot help the students who have failed to pass Matric. How often has our education system changed since the dawn of democracy? Now we have maths literacy, and so many strange subjects. The cherry on the cake is the infamous 30% pass!
During the presidency of Thabo Mbeki there were more than 600,000 unemployed graduates already. They must be over 1 million by now. What is this? Why is it like this? What a waste of human resources! They say they are spending more than 10% of the GDP on education, more than any other country in the world!
* The writer of this column, Nkutšoeu Motsau, was born in Top Location in the Vaal Triangle in 1953. He grew up in Sharpeville. He is a tetraplegic as a result of a car accident in July 2005 in Sharpeville and now resides in Cape Town, but still feels a deep rooted connection with the Vaal. Nkutšoeu is Chairperson of Azanla MVA).