The affordable education loan option
Johannesburg - The South African education system was better before the advent of democracy, Agang SA leader Mamphela Ramphele said on Friday.
"The students of 1976 died fighting against inferior education, and it (education) is worse today," she told students at the University of the Witwatersrand.
"I never thought I would ever say that, but it is worse."
She said the biggest crime committed by the government since 1994, was its role in destroying the quality of education.
"The irony is that the people who ignited the struggle for freedom in 1976 were protesting against poor education," Ramphele said.
"If they were to come back today, they wouldn't believe it: that what they had and what they were protesting (against) is much better than what our children in 80 percent of the schools get."
Ramphele was later asked by one of the students why, if this was the case, had there been more graduates since 1994.
She defended her comments by asking the student to read a recent report on global competitiveness.
"We are dead last... in our performance in education. We spend the largest proportion of government expenditure on education than any other country, with the worst outcome," she said.
"Yes, we have three times more graduates, but the quality thereof is why people are unemployed."
Ramphele called on students to vote in next year's elections.
"We can have that country that I have been dreaming about for the last 65 years. That country that so many of my friends died fighting for, that country that (former president Nelson) Mandela is now on his sickbed, having given his life for," she said.
"That country is possible. It is in your hands. You have to use the power you have in the vote."
She said that in the 2009 general election, 41 percent of South Africans did not vote.
"By so doing, they handed over power to a minority. So this government is governing with 38 percent of the votes that are possible in South Africa," Ramphele said.
"It means that it is possible for you and I, who don't agree with what is going on, to vote for a future we believe in. We can change this government in 2014, but it requires you to... exercise your vote and vote for the future, not the past."
She said her involvement in politics was not because she wanted to be in charge, but rather because she wanted to see change.