by Brian Isaacs
Why is it that, 26 years into democracy in South Africa, we find racism still at government schools in South Africa?
This racism seems to be endemic in former Model C schools and private schools.
I have always believed that to change the schools in South Africa, radical change has to be made to the educational system in South Africa.
We had this opportunity in 1994 where a fundamental change in education could have been implemented and we would have had an educational system where playing fields could have been levelled.
The parties at Codesa negotiated a deal that worked in favour of the advantaged in all respects of South African life.
These negotiations made the plight of the oppressed worse. There was no fundamental change in South Africa in the educational arena.
The former Model C schools and private schools, with their increasing school fees, could appoint many more teachers and therefore academically continue to do better. I have always maintained that, for schools to be world-class, three things must happen at the schools:
l The school must strive for excellence academically.
l The school must offer as many extramural activities as possible.
l The school has to make students aware of the political situation which negates education being enhanced.
When a school meets these criteria, I consider it an excellent school. Most former Model C schools and private schools neglect the third aspect of being a good school.
They are normally very quiet about the political aspect of schooling. It is not in their interest to do so. You do not see them agitating for free education, since they believe that money will buy their students a better education and give them an advantage.
On the other hand, the schools of the poor state that their parents cannot pay exorbitant school fees and that they, therefore, cannot deliver quality education.
The fact that the schools of the poor do not have resources to pay for more teachers can never be an excuse for not striving for excellence.
This mindset will lead to mediocrity in academic work, as can be seen in many schools of the poor.
Teachers, like their former colleagues at the schools of the poor, have to work extra hard after school to involve the youth in extramural activities which are non-existent at many of the schools of the poor. These extramural activities have many benefits. Students learn new skills and interact with students from different schools.
I would often say to my students when we go and play tennis against former model C and private schools: “ Ask them how they acquired these facilities!”
More importantly, teachers and parents must engage politically with students about the South African situation and the situation worldwide.
Governments all over the world want to control the minds of people in schools. We must oppose this strongly.
Post-1994, I have heard many education officials say that they do not discuss politics in schools. What a shame! That is why we can still, in 2020, have racist incidents at Brackenfell High in Cape Town and many of the former model C schools and private schools.
* Brian Isaacs obtained a BSc (UWC) in 1975, a Secondary Teacher’s Diploma in 1976, BEd (UWC) in 1981, and MEd (UWC) in 1992. He is a former matriculant, teacher and principal at South Peninsula High School.
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.
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