We have some pretty strange traditions in South Africa, especially around this time of year. All business stops for a month while white people go on holiday and black people go home. We all drive to coastal destinations and risk the lives of our families and total strangers in the hope of reaching our destinations 30 minutes earlier!
One of our other strange traditions is the release of our matric result. This is then used as a proxy for the health of our education system and it is safe to say that for the past 20 years, a source of considerable angst for all South Africans.
The class of 2014 has once again, not failed to disappoint.
The knives have been drawn and the culprits have been identified. “Fire the Minister of Basic Education” is the call from opposition parties, referring to yet another cabinet minister who appears to be totally out of her depth. “Ban SADTU” is the business response, referring to the problematic teachers trade union. “Close the under-performing schools” is the threat from provincial education ministers.
Why do the learners themselves get off so lightly?
You may recall that when Nelson Mandela was President of the country, he suggested that the voting age be reduced to 14 because he believed that our youth were intellectually capable of making the complex decision of choosing our government.
Rewind further to 1976 and when adults on both sides of the apartheid divide were unable to act in the best interests of the future of South Africa; it was the youth who took action. In defiance of the authoritarian government of the day who were determined to provide an inadequate education, it was 12 and 13 year olds who had the good sense to take action and protest against the destruction of their own future. Why won’t the teenagers of today fight for their own futures as their parents did 37 years ago?
We were all once teenagers and at a point in our lives, probably our mid-teens, we decided to take control of our own futures and to take our own education seriously. We stopped doing it because our parents told us to, or because the teacher told us to, or because the government told us to. We did it because we could see that it was the smart choice for our own futures.
Why are our children not making this obvious decision? Could it be because we keep on telling them that it is everybody else’s fault when they fail? Or could it be that they see a President with a grade five education owning a house worth R250m who tells the country that we don’t need “clever blacks”?