A group of academics have launched a campaign to boost access to high-quality education for South Africans.
The group of scholars are calling for an education system that is inclusive, accessible and equitable.
According to the South African Education Association, only one in five students go to primary school.
“We’re trying to do something positive,” says KwaZulu-Natal-based lecturer and educator Nellie Nyonjuy.
“Education for all is a right, and it’s not just for the privileged.
It’s also for everyone.”
Nyonjuy has worked as a consultant to education organisations for years.
Her current work is focused on the South Africa of today.
Nyonjuys research focuses on how education in the country has shifted in recent years.
She says education in South African communities has shifted away from formal education, towards more informal activities such as learning to play musical instruments, dance and reading and writing.
Many of the countrys children now spend much of their time in informal learning, she says.
While many of the rural communities are better off financially, the urban centres of South Africa have become a magnet for the poorer and disadvantaged.
The city of Cape Town, for instance, has become an economic powerhouse for many South Africans, but it also attracts students who are from the poorest areas of the province.
The South African government has made education a priority, with the government setting up an ambitious initiative called SAI, or the South Asias Integrated Educational Development Initiative.
In 2015, the SAI was launched to support the creation of a South African curriculum that includes a number of “soft skills”, such as literacy, numeracy, math, science and reading, Nyonjuys says.
“These are the skills that we want our children to acquire, but at the same time, we want to teach them the fundamentals of what it means to be a good person,” she says, noting that the curriculum is aimed at preparing students for employment.
To achieve this, the government has developed a number.
One is the South Africans Integrated Multilingual and Multicultural Development Framework, which aims to provide the same opportunities to all students, regardless of their backgrounds.
A second initiative aims to ensure that students of all backgrounds can attend the same primary and secondary school, as well as access to the best tertiary education.
It also supports students to participate in sport and other non-traditional learning opportunities, and the government is looking at ways to ensure students are able to participate fully in education.
“We want our kids to have the best opportunities possible,” Nyonja says.
“But we also want to ensure there is a lot of respect for the people who are working hard and the hard work they are putting in.”
A common thread in Nyonjoys research is that while we all need to learn, there are people who can help.
“The problem with South Africa is we have a lot more people than we need,” she said.
“We don’t have the infrastructure to educate them.”
The students are not always happy about the government’s priorities, however.
One student, for example, is concerned about the quality of education being offered to the poorest students.
She points out that the government does not have sufficient funding to fund all the schools.
She wants to see an end to the system where teachers are paid on the basis of attendance rather than achievement.
“I don’t want to be in a classroom with students that don’t know the difference between math and English, or know the word ‘salt’ from ‘sulfur’,” she said, adding that the country needs to learn to teach to the test.
She says that she would also like to see a focus on learning through the arts, as a means to develop a deeper understanding of society.
Another student, who asked to remain anonymous, said that although the government was trying to help the disadvantaged, there was a huge disparity between the socio-economic status of the poor and rich in the city.
He added that the lack of resources meant that students had to work harder in order to reach a certain level of proficiency.
And, he said, students who had a poor level of literacy and numeracy were at a disadvantage.
“I know the situation is very complicated, but if I didn’t have money, I wouldn’t be able to do my work,” he said.
Some of the students who were speaking out against the government said they were also concerned about their children being able to attend schools that they could attend.
Nyonje says that there is an emphasis on education for all, but that students need to be given opportunities to achieve, and that this does not mean that all should attend the primary and intermediate level.
“Education is an important part of life in South Africans,” she notes.
“It is something that every family in this country needs.”