The Wealth of Knowledge
Written by Mohlomi Lehoko
There’s a Maya Angelou quote I hold dearly. It says, “When you know better you, do better.”
As Afropolitans, we have to be concerned about the true state of education in our country and what the current state of affairs means for our collective future.
Statistics show a distorted picture of improvement but the reality paints another picture. One has to ask; “Has the quality of our education really improved? We have to analyse this and respond from a global perspective, noting that South African children don’t only have to be good enough in their neighbourhood, but have to compete with children from all over the world.
A quick glance at the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report and you can see the true story of South Africa’s education nightmare. Out of 148 countries measured, South Africa’s quality of education system is ranked at 146, while the quality of maths and science education is last, at 148.
These rankings are especially disturbing when you compare us to fellow BRICS nations. This comparison is valid because as trade partners, we compete directly with these countries. Due to their higher levels of education, they can contribute to their nations’ output of products and services; relegating us to mere consumers. We are currently relying on these countries for a lot of our products because through better education and skills they are able to produce more and impose themselves on our economy.
The need to reverse this situation couldn’t be starker. We always exclaim at the high levels of unemployment in this country and the growing inequality among its people, yet we continue to institutionalize under performance through a failing education system. Year after year, sub-standard matriculates are released into the market where they struggle to cope with the demands of tertiary education, as the realities that excellence and success requires more than a 30% pass.
One thing is certain; we will never eradicate poverty without quality education. The connection between education and economic growth is undeniable. Education produces skills and skills contribute to productivity. Education makes it more likely for people not just to be employed, but to hold jobs that are more secure and provide good working conditions and decent pay. In so doing, education can not only help lift households out of poverty, but also guard against them falling – or falling back – into poverty.
So as abomKaya, who don’t set the agenda or influence education policy, what can we do? Plenty! We can be mentors. We can contribute to our communities by tutoring or even making contributions to learning programs. It’s in our DNA to help others less fortunate than we are. At the end of your life, you won’t be judged by the BMW’s, the whiskies and good life you had. Instead, you will look back at your life and consider what valuable contribution you made to lift others around you. You will think back to Maya Angelou’s words and reflect whether you did do batter because you did know better.