Thursday, August 16, 2012
Is this the Education our Continent’s Forefathers Dreamt of?
The last couple of months have been awash on the South African media with images of Section 27 representatives, the Department of Basic Education and other experts discussing how the South African education system has failed the child in Limpopo province.
It all started when Section 27 took the Basic Education Minister, Angie Motshekga to court to order her to ensure the department provided textbooks to schools in Limpopo. These learners have been without books and teachers without teaching materials since the beginning of the school year.
In Swaziland, a public sector strike for the last 5 weeks has meant that children have been without teachers and access to education for that long. It has meant that some teachers have been illegally fired for engaging in strike action, in effect removing access to those children affected by this.
In late 2009, Kenya was rocked by a major scandal (not the first in the education ministry) where Ksh3.2billion could not be accounted for. This money had been lent to Kenya by a number of donor countries including the UK to assist with the rolling out of the free primary school programme announced by President Mwai Kibaki in 2003.
And these are not isolated incidences in the continent. Media archives and current media coverage continues to bring to the fore great inefficiencies and maladministration regarding basic education for the African child.
And it is not just any African child that is affected by this. It is the poorest of the poor black African child who also has no other option to access education. Our black African led governments have continuously failed the black African child.
During and after the struggle for freedom in Africa, many of the continent's founding fathers including Kwame Nkrumah, Julius Nyerere, Jomo Kenyatta and Robert Mugabe passionately preached and encouraged Africans to empower themselves by accessing the best education thatthey could. Our founding fathers entered into agreements with the West that ensured education programmes for the African child were rolled out. During the struggle, many Africans were in exile accessing the best education that would ensure an efficient transition into freedom, in terms of governance and administration of governments.
And for a while after the advent of freedom, many African education systems were overhauled to provide the best possible education to their citizenry.
In the late 20th Century and current 21st century, things have changed and our forefathers must be turning in their graves when they see the quality of education the black African child is accessing. It must be a real let down for them when they see how good education plans and policies often fail in the implementation phase.
It is the poorest of the poor black African child that has had to suffer from the corruption and maladministration that has crippled the African education system. It is the poorest black African child that has no access to a feeding programme when the money is siphoned by a bureaucrat.
It is the black African child that has to travel by foot kilometres and kilometres everyday to reach to school because funds to build a new school next to his/her home or provide transport have gone to build a politician’s million dollar mansion.
I am angry! I am angry because our politicians did not all start out wanting to siphon money from the public coffers. I am angry because they have turned to animals that continue to produce illiterate people from our schooling systems, who are unable/ struggle to compete on the world stage.
I am angry that the black African child whose parent is a politician continues to access the best private school education within and outside the continent, a private education that very few can afford.
I am angry because the emerging middle class in the continent are being forced to divert money that could otherwise have been used to building wealth for the continent for their loved ones can access the best quality private education.
I am angry that the King of Swaziland, just by a mere pronunciation that the public strike should end in Swaziland and without any further negotiations in sight, the unions order teachers to go back to class. To go back to class to teach when they are not satisfied with their conditions of services and their remuneration benefits. What kind of an education can we expect these teachers to provide to Swazi learners that have already missed 5 weeks of school?
We, the citizens of this continent, just like Section 27 and other civil society movements, must begin to hold our governments accountable.
We, the citizens of this continent, need to fight for the rights of the black African child to access the same education as anyone else.
Because if we do not stand up for these children, the future of this continent, they will continue to be failed, and the continent’s prospects will be curtailed significantly