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Textbooks vital to make SA successful

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Text books and stationary gather dust at the Department of Education’s warehouse in Polokwane in this June 24 picture, after education officials and service providers failed to deliver the materials to schools around Limpopo. Photo: Itumeleng English.

We now know that “the Limpopo Education Department is rotten”, that for months textbooks lay piled up in a warehouse because of incompetence, negligence and wastefulness by education officials and service providers.

We know that education authorities only delivered books after pressure group Section 27 and two other applicants, represented by the Centre for Applied Legal Studies, launched an urgent application against the Limpopo Department of Education in relation to its failure to procure and deliver textbooks for pupils throughout Limpopo.

It is common knowledge that Judge Jody Kollapen ruled that the failure by the Department of Basic Education (DBE) and the Limpopo Department of Education to provide textbooks to pupils throughout Limpopo “is a violation of the right to a basic education, dignity and equality”.

He ordered that the DBE and the Limpopo department deliver textbooks to all schools in the province and that a “catch-up plan” be formulated. We know that the entire ordeal has been epitomised by missed deadlines.

Now the questions is: What does this sorry state of education in Limpopo mean for the readiness of learners to conquer the job market in the future?

The answer is: By failing to deliver the textbooks timeously, the DBE has denied the learners a fundamental and basic opportunity to acquire the basic tenets of future skills development. Limpopo pupils and students are going to need to acquire such skills to find jobs in the future.

Here is the reason why the textbook fiasco is interfering with the basic human right to learn: despite differences in age, sex, race, religion and economic status, we all share the belief that education is a way towards economic self-sufficiency.

We all agree that our knowledge-based economy means an ever-increasing demand for a well-educated and skilled workforce in all parts of the economy and in all parts of the country.

Indeed, the skills required for many conventional occupations are changing rapidly and many skills are quickly becoming outdated as new jobs, new technologies and new industries emerge. Therefore, our education system must be strengthened if we are to meet the current and future skills and labour force demand. Without textbooks at this early learning stage, the learners are starting at a disadvantage.

We all agree that if one does not attain certain academic benchmarks, if one is denied early learning materials – particularly textbooks – and if one drops out of school, it makes it difficult to climb the ladder of self-sufficiency, never mind the ladder of economic success.

Universal primary education is a vital weapon in the war against global poverty. Education gives children the skills needed to contribute to our country’s economy, particularly to raise productivity for economic growth and create employment.

We all know that good parenting or bad parenting and bad government performance such as we have seen in Limpopo, is and will be the single biggest factor of how children turn out as adults in the future. For example, as they develop and learn skills, children are also developing socially, learning how to deal with others, how they should behave and how they should be treated. How and where and from whom they learn their social skills matters very much, and it should be no surprise that there are long-term, cumulative effects caused by the lack of textbooks.

We need to understand that early learning improves the relevancy of education and training, and tackles the barriers to future employment.

In order to teach young children socially responsible behaviour, to help them adjust to the early school environment, learners should first develop their own personal responsibility, such as the ability to make decisions based on a task at hand. They cannot do so without the guidance found in textbooks.

Indeed, learners must be able to use the self-direction and reflection that they usually get from textbooks in order to develop social responsibility and make positive contributions to the overall class, including their own peer motivation. This tells us that socially responsible behaviours – such as respect, co-operation and appropriate participation in groups – are especially important for young children to use when interacting with peers and teachers in the classroom, and for early academic achievement. As such textbooks give them the foundation of development.

The most likely way for an adult learner to become self-sufficient is to have educational opportunities that focus on work, family and community.

Quality textbooks that offer these elements are vitally important for learners attempting to become self-sufficient now and in the future. Support from families, the government and later employers in the form of skills development training are important steps as the gap between what it takes to make it in life and society, including employee wages, continues to widen.

Everyone needs competencies and a foundation of basic and higher order thinking skills and personal qualities that foster discipline and self-confidence if learners, whether in Limpopo and elsewhere, are to succeed in the 21st century.

To give children and youth the best possible start in life, here are a number of goals, covering all aspects of skills development, along with specific milestones measuring the achievement of these goals.

n South Africa should strive to become one of the top countries in mathematics, science and reading achievement;

n All young South Africans are computer and internet literate by grade school graduation;

n All students who graduate from high school achieve a level of literacy sufficient to participate in a knowledge-based economy; and

n To ensure that the current and emerging workforce is more highly skilled and adaptable, the number of adult learners increases throughout all segments of society and businesses must increase the annual investment in skills development training.

A successful driver of development is what people learn both in and out of school from their first years of life, all the way through school, into the jobs market and throughout their working lives.

For us to fully reap the benefits of education, both by learning from ideas and through innovation, we need to unleash the potential of our children’s minds. And there is no better tool for doing so than giving them the essential tools to education – textbooks.

Liza van Wyk is the chief executive of AstroTech and BizTech Training. For more information visit www.astrotech.co.za or call 0861 AstroTech.


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