Is ex Model C education the next apartheid?
Education in South Africa remains a hot topic of debate, with most people concurring that education in South Africa is under pressure. Most colloquial condemnation vests in active criticism of the government’s changing of norms and standards, in particular the reduction in the “pass” mark for Matric (Gr12).
I would agree with the commentary that changing the requirements to the extent that it appears to make it easier for people to achieve is not acceptable, however, as with every debate, context is critical. This though is not the topic of this post!
An area for me that is particularly worrisome is the widening gap within the government school base, in as much as it concerns resources. My eldest child is nearing the time of entry into high school and we are particularly keen to see her go to a school that she will flourish in. We believe that we have found this school and have made the application for acceptance.
During the application process we attended an open day and got a tour of the school, it was amazing. The resources, both human and physical, are something to behold. During the tour we were advised that the school had settled on the tablet devices for the New Year and that these were being deployed so that they would not have to carry heavy bags, and that they would be better prepared for the real world. In addition she would have access to a number of exciting programs, sporting opportunities and other amenities.
This is a government school. This though is not the universal experience for government schools in South Africa.
Many of the ex Model C schools are pushing to achieve a higher standard, this is not a bad thing, but it is contextually challenging. Grounds at many of these schools resemble private educational standards, WIFI is a given, smart boards, tablets, exchange programmes, swimming complexes, gymnasiums and many more are the norm. We have full bursaries offered to prospective students who have talent that can take the school onto higher things.
For schools that are not allowed to make a profit it is phenomenal to see how much is being done. Investment funds are started for future developments, with part of existing school fees being “accrued” for these developments. This is seen as good practice, given that government is “not prepared to fund these types of enhancements” I don’t necessarily agree with these but as a parent who’s child will benefit from previous investments, I suppose I can’t really complain, but perhaps some thought is required.
I wonder if, as I suggested by the opening line, education, particularly as it pertains to the ex model C environment, will be the next apartheid. We are effectively continuing, at a government schooling level, with widening the gap between learners into tertiary institutions. We are, I believe, creating barriers through this model of schooling.
The argument most often presented by these schools, is that the funding by government is insufficient, so they have to charge the fees they do in order to cover their budgets. They want to create environments that help learners grow and develop. These are all good goals, but as I mentioned earlier, contextually we need to be careful of making the divide at a primary and secondary education level too wide.
So some questions that I am grappling with (I don’t have the answers to these), but I am left wondering if the schooling system that we have in place currently is serving the wider South African agenda?
- Do established schools have a right to be striving for higher resource levels? Have they not reached a limit that is taking them dangerously close to private school education? (in 2012 Minister Motshekga accused school governing bodies of “privatising public education” and making it “unaffordable for most parents”)
- What should our government education system, as a whole, look like – Is it naïve for me to want an equal opportunity for all at a primary and secondary schooling level?
- Could we maintain high levels of education with a standardised resource base?
- Should there be a cap of the government school fees levied on parents? Should there even be school fees?
- Is it morally correct for a school to spend R 250 000.00 on their 1st team coach, when the poorest of the schools are being given just R 1100.00 per child per year to get by on?
I am not sure what the answers are, but I do fear that we are creating an open chequebook policy within the ex Model C establishment. I am not sure that this is a healthy outcome for the future education of this country as a whole.