It’s an Open Book, Always

Sibusiso Tshabalala

The festivities are over and answer-seeking season is upon us. It is brief but worth the fuss. For two or three days (and maybe even a week) we will all fuss.  ‘Where did it go wrong?’ we will ask. ‘Our education system is going to the dogs’, we will lament.

But the fussing will eventually end. A scandal or two and an Angie here and there; will remind us of our stark reality later during the year.

Seeking for Answers

UMalusi has declared the results ‘free and fair’ and the IEB schools have done extremely well. The 2012 NSC candidates have registered the highest pass rate in 17 years and the quality of our Maths passes might have improved, but it’s still not adding up. It doesn’t seem like our Science is any better either.

It’s answer-seeking season remember, and we want to know why we’re in this mess.

This is our general attitude to the state of our ailing education system in South Africa. Each citizen a fierce commentator on the outcomes, but very few of us involve ourselves in the hard work that goes into these (unfavorable) outcomes. The mass hysteria is on the quality of passes and the dumbed-down standards are our preoccupation. But unfortunately very little happens after this mass hysteria. Soon, we will go back into our little cocoons, sheltered away from the reality and rely on a scandal or a newspaper headline to stir us not into action,  but outrage.

In trying to make sense of the results myself, I sparred with a friend on what I thought was a ‘self-congratulatory performance by Minister Angie Motshekga’. For me, registering the highest pass in 17 years meant very little. I kept on harping about the quality of passes in Maths and Science, blah blah and the dreadful 30% pass mark in atleast 3 subjects!

I was not amused. How could we celebrate such mediocrity?

It took a bit of time for me realize that my sparring and legitimate criticism means very little in the bigger picture. I realized that saying ‘30% is not enough’ or ‘we shouldn’t be happy with this pass rate’ is simply lazy, unhelpful and lackadaisical. Lazy because our criticism on the standards and performance say very little about the value we ascribe to education. In the first week of the year we seem to care so dearly about education; and for the next 11 months we go on with our lives unaffected by the twaddle that goes on in our schools.

My criticism is unhelpful in many ways. Yes speaking out against poor performing teachers, ignorant parents, horrible administrators and lazy school kids is a good thing. But it ends here, nothing changes.

South Africans don’t value education. We may claim to, but we actually don’t. We fool ourselves into thinking that our empty outrage demonstrates the value we ascribe to education. But in all truth, our outrage is simply that; empty outrage with no interest to do much or anything, rather.

The Answers That Matter

In our search for answers, there are those who’ve made it their duty to pick up the shovel and build. While we harp on endlessly, they toil silently. These countless men and women are the few that truly value education in this country. For them, commitment to education lasts beyond a few tweets, retweets, likes, opinion pieces and bursts of outrage.

They acknowledge that the teachers may not always be conducting themselves appropriately or that our parents are sometimes too uninvolved in the education of their children; but these men and women continue to build.

Cedric Lidzhade is one of them. He’s the known as the ‘No textbooks, No Problem Principal’.   Mbilwi Secondary School in the Vhembe District in Limpopo has been producing a 100% pass rate since 1994. This school is under Cedric’s capable leadership.  Each year, the school opens earlier than expected in order to meet the demands of quality teaching. On Saturdays, learners at Mbliwi spend three hours on Maths, Science and other key subjects.

There are many principals like Cedric in South Africa. Mr Motlomoetsi, principal of Tsoseletso High School  in Bloemfontein is no less of a giant. The school is also renowned for not producing top achievers and excellent pass rates, but it also competes fiercely with it’s former Model-C counter parts comfortably in the Free State.

If you looking for young vibrant voices, you are bound to be inspired.

Athambile Masola, a young high school teacher in Cape Town is making giant strides. She took the unpopular decision to become a teacher and her passion for teaching was nurtured as a student where she volunteered at schools. She not only teaches, but is active in many education campaigns and projects. Athambile also writes passionately about the state of education in South Africa.

Nangamso Koza is no stranger in the answer-seeking business. As a Journalism student who hails from Whittlesea in the Eastern Cape, Nangamso runs the Inqubela Foundation .

Nangamso’s aim is to make schools centres of excellence. She has developed countless models and programmes designed to harness the potential of learners in any school. Her work is best found in the multiple schools the Foundation has partnerships with. Increased pass rates, extra-curricular activities and mentorship programmes are the order of the day in these schools.

Equal Education is a national treasure. Their relentless dedication to building a social movement of teachers, parents and learners is astounding. This year alone, Equal Education in partnership with Section 27 fought heavy legal battles and won most of them. Rigorous campaigning, intense mobilization and well-though out programmes make them the country’s education bedrock.

These people, organizations and many more ordinary South Africans have discovered the true value of education. Their task is to preserve and protect it whilst seeking the difficult answers. These are the people who we should celebrate. They do not preoccupy themselves with worthless fault-finding; they attempt to fix the faults.

While we all search for the answers, we will soon discover that the test isn’t so difficult after all. It seems like it’s an open book test.

And in true test style, we should take a seat, shut up and trudge along.

Follow Sibusiso on Twitter, @SbuTshabs

 

 

Sibusiso Tshabalala

Sibusiso, like many other human beings prefers to sleep, read, laugh, eat and write.

Follow him on Twitter: @sbutshabs

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