I long held the belief that education worldwide is inextricably linked to politics. The two are inherently intertwined.
While teachers must undoubtedly meet the highest academic standards, I have observed in South African schools a reluctance among many teachers to voice their opinions at official Education Department meetings, staff meetings, and public forums.
This hesitation stems from a long history of suppression, as teachers who criticised the Education Department during the apartheid era faced harsh repercussions.
Since 1994, significant strides have been made in South African education, and the governing political party deserves credit for these improvements.
The establishment of a unified Education Department marked a pivotal step forward, as did the introduction of compulsory education up to Grade 7 or the age of 15.
The initiative to address educational disparities by allocating more funding to schools in poorer areas is a commendable move in the right direction.
However, the government must do more to achieve equitable education. While schools with higher fees can afford to hire more teachers, those in disadvantaged areas cannot.
Furthermore, the Education Department must prioritise the construction of more high schools. For every two primary schools in South Africa, there is only one high school. This imbalance must be addressed.
It is time for the Education Department to radically alter its approach towards teachers. The department must embrace a culture of open criticism and abandon the notion of absolute authority that stifles open dialogue.
I am firmly convinced that a radical transformation of education in South Africa hinges on allowing teachers to express their views openly and without fear of repercussions.
* Brian Isaacs.
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.
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