Newsletter 213 - IRR POLICY PAPER - The South African Education Crisis: “Giving power back to parents”


The South African Education Crisis: “Giving power back to parents”

Why are our schools failing?

  1. It is clear that South African schools are failing to adequately educate our children.
  2. Our grade fours are barely able to read, and most people drop out before they even reach the final year of school.
  3. Even if a child does make it to the final year of school, they will be unlikely to pass well enough to go to university, and be very unlikely to have got marks good enough to equip themselves for a successful university and working career.
  4. At the same time, it is black learners who are most likely to suffer from poor educational outcomes.

Part of the reason for these failures is militant trade unions, which the government is either unable or unwilling to rein in.

  1. The South African Democratic Teachers’ Union (SADTU) has, instead of protecting the rights of teachers, infringed the rights of learners in the country.
  2. Even minister of basic education Angie Motshekga has criticised SADTU, saying that the union (which is an ally of the ANC through its membership of the Congress of South African Trade Unions) caused more problems than it solved in some parts of the country.
  3. She also bemoaned the union’s opposition to measures to improve education, its antagonistic approach, illegal strikes, and its use of policy matters as ‘bargaining chips’ to get its way.
  4. Research conducted by a task team appointed by the Department of Basic Education (DBE) found that SADTU had effectively ‘captured’ the schooling system in six provinces (the Free State, the Northern Cape, and Western Cape being the exceptions).
  5. The union was not only selling posts and manipulating appointments, and the manipulation of appointments was not only around the appointment of teachers and principals, but also of district managers.
  6. The DBE task team did not hold SADTU solely to blame, however.

Writing in the Mail & Guardian, a member of the DBE task team, Michael Gardiner, said that the department had to carry some of the blame.

  1. He said that the department’s ‘weakness and short notice to convert to a double medium institution when it is not practically possible to do so’.
  2. Mr Lesufi has said that he will take the matter as far as the Constitutional Court. Subsequently, it emerged that Mr Lesufi and the provincial education department had bullied two English-medium schools in the area to claim that they were at capacity, when they were not, forcing the 55 children to try to get into Overvaal.
  3. The principals of the two schools were accused of being racist and threatened with dismissal if they did not say that their schools were full.

The Federation of Governing Bodies of South African Schools (Fedsas) also warned that Afrikaans was under threat in Gauteng.

  1. The online application system, whereby parents apply online for the school of their choice, no longer gave parents an option of choosing a language of instruction.
  2. Jaco Deacon, the deputy chief executive of the organisation, said that this was an attempt by Mr Lesufi to change all Afrikaans- medium schools in Gauteng to English-medium ones.
  3. He said that the proportion of Afrikaans schools in the province was already low, with only six percent teaching exclusively in the language.
  4. The issue of language should not be used to exclude people from receiving an education, but it seems that there is an agenda against Afrikaans schools in the province.
  5. People should be allowed to choose the language of instruction for their children, as long as it is not done solely to exclude people of other races and cultural backgrounds.
  6. The right to one’s language and cultural identity is enshrined in the Constitution and must be protected – and giving people more school choice is one way of doing this.

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