It is undeniable that South Africa's education system is unequal. Families with financial stability enjoy range of schooling options to enrol their children, with the opportunity to take into account; infrastructure, location, fees structures and extra mural activities. While, on the other hand, majority of families in South Africa enrol their children in schools closest to home and where there is less monetary obligations involved. As a results of this, a majority of families in South Africa hardly scrutinise schooling infrastructure when choosing where to send their children.
Money and education are inseparable; the more money you have the better standard of education you have access to. Hence, #FeesMustFall got us all reflecting.
The concern is the manner in which parents or community leaders make decisions on behalf of children about their schooling career; often with little professional advice with regards to the best interest of the child. These circumstances are to the detriment of children's educational and psychosocial well-being. However, we cannot deviate from the present conditions of poverty, unemployment and lack of information as enablers of severe social ills.
The South African government has attempted to take the best interest of the child by giving child support grants to millions of children. A unique commitment of its kind in the world. However, the child grants do not seem to advance the interest of the child since most children are not enrolled in adequate early childhood development centres. Furthermore, those who are in the formal schooling system, lack educational resources that are crucial in stimulating and complimenting their curriculum outside of the classroom. It is imperative to not ignore that competitive learning happens beyond the classroom.
There needs to be a vigorous private-public sector cooperation seeking to tackle the insufficient returns of education investment.
Many corporate social investment strategies prioritise education, especially early childhood development as a way to meet our ever-increasing socio-economic needs. Yet, most corporates find that such interventions make little difference as schools are not kept safe, teachers lack competence, learners are failing to grasp the curriculum and communities are apathetic in instilling morals and values related to active citizenry and collective responsibility as envisioned in our Constitutional dispensation.
There needs to be a vigorous private-public sector cooperation seeking to tackle the insufficient returns of education investment, and to avoid the so-called 'brain drain' and skills shortage. Ideally, such cooperation should ensure that our education system feeds our economic needs so that no skills go unutilized. An education system that produces tax payers and not tax consumers; no citizen ought to be a burden of the state rather a contributor to economic growth.
It is fair to critically evaluate the outcomes of our education system, to admit that is it not globally competitive, and is insensitive to viable economic sustainability. It is prime time that our education system starts to think along the lines of investment returns. This can only be done through policy formulation and implementation that is sensitive to social justice, equality and societal commitment to not undermine the value of education. After all, the largest portion of our GDP is invested in education – the irony?