We have entered a new school year with a public education system that is scarred and bruised.
The IEB schools are portrayed as educational heavens for privileged South African children. These schools have smaller class sizes, a manageable number of pupils in the class and are rich in resources.
The IEB assimilationist policies rob black children of their indigenous languages and culture and promote that of the colonialist – English and Afrikaans.
Politicians spend a lot of money and send their children to such schools for a twang while our children in public-funded schools lag behind in terms of resources.
In these schools, overcrowding renders hardworking teachers useless. In our public schools children fight for chairs, 20-something years after the democratic dispensation. These are the schools where vandalism is the order of the day. This is the state of education in our country.
In the past year we have witnessed violence against teachers in public schools.
As we celebrate the class of 2019 we also need to reflect on the pertinent issues that the system fails to address properly. Let me remind you not to forget that there will never be social cohesion as long as the system perpetuates inequality through the schooling system.
I want to highlight a few important issues that are overlooked by the system. It is a fact that most schools, especially secondary schools, in our townships are determined to produce good academic results in Grade 12. It is good to produce good results but wrong not to teach our kids in totality.
We need to fashion education programmes so they will teach the mind, hands and soul. To reduce social illness in our schools we need to touch on these three precious things in our day-to-day teaching.
Where are we getting it wrong?
We need the reinforcement of sports, arts and cultural programmes and the growth and spread of youth empowerment programmes.
These programmes should be directed towards nation building and social cohesion. They will keep the minds of our kids healthy – thus allow them to engage positively in academics – and drive them away from negative extra-curriculum activities such as sex and drugs.
The department does not support these programmes because it does not cover them in the annual budget it allocates to schools.
Where are the magnificent Thursdays they spoke about? They indicate right and turn left – that is how our leaders operate. Even if it were there, the lack of budget would render it useless.
In Gauteng, we have very beautiful programmes meant for youth and culture activation but the officials given the responsibilities are unclear on what they have to do. The whole system is broken, thus it breaks the schools.
The representative council of learners is rendered useless in our schools. They are elected but not give proper support. This structure is a key stakeholder that needs support and can be a very useful tool in preventing and solving problems we face daily at schools.
Through these units – youth and culture, values in education and sport – we can conquer social ills. It is through these units that we can help pupils and teachers belong to their schools with pride, foster social cohesion, create patriotism, encourage competitive values and support sporting talent.
Let’s push for mass participation in extracurricular activities if we intend to foster good behaviour among our pupils and teachers. Schools should not be boring spaces.
• Enock Shishenge describes himself as a lay teacher from the ghetto