Educationalist Jonathan Jansen
Educationalist Jonathan Jansen

Education a time bomb, warns Jansen

By Michelle Jones Time of article published Apr 18, 2012

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Michelle Jones

Education Writer

SA EDUCATION is dumping thousands of young people into social and economic oblivion, and this will soon lead to a massive crisis in education and society that will make the youth uprising of 1976 look like a Sunday school picnic.

This according to educationalist Jonathan Jansen, who says the education system needs a game-changing intervention that will alter the essential character of dysfunctionality in the majority of schools.

And, he says, the government will not be able to make the necessary changes because it lacks the political will to tackle unions and provinces.

Jansen, vice-chancellor and rector of the University of the Free State, told the Cape Times yesterday that the education system had not changed – for most black schools – since the days of apartheid. “The eyesore of massive inequalities between rich and poor schools, or between functioning schools with the basic resources and the hordes of dysfunctional schools, will, sooner rather than later, lead to a massive crisis in education and society that will make 1976 look like a Sunday school picnic.

“You cannot in every school cycle dump out of the school system hundreds of thousands of young people, mainly black and men, into social and economic oblivion, and wish that they disappear into thin air. When that revolt of gatvol young adults hits us, I do not want to be here.”

This after Mamphela Ramphele, activist and former UCT vice-chancellor, said last month that the SA education system was worse today than under apartheid.

In a recent column for The Times, titled “Seven costly mistakes”, Jansen wrote that the government had made seven major mistakes since the mid-1990s instead of addressing the inequalities in education caused by apartheid.

“Through a combination of legacy, neglect and bad policy decisions, our educational institutions are indeed in a worse state than before,” he wrote.

The seven mistakes were:

l Outcomes Based Education system.

l Voluntary severance packages offered to teachers.

l Closing teacher education colleges.

l Mergers of some universities that made no sense.

l Mergers of universities with technikons.

l Neglect of mother tongue instruction, especially in township schools.

l The failure to install basic minimum standards for school education which were legally enforceable.

Jansen said: “The main problem staring us in the face is that despite many, many reforms striking the school system since the 1990s, we have not yet had a game-changing intervention that alters the essential character of dysfunctionality in the majority of our schools, or improved the life chances of most black learners. That is the hard reality.”

He said the Basic Education Department had wasted hundreds of millions on new curricula, systems and policies.

“And yet, nothing has changed. Ironically, the former privileged schools, while most (not all) are now deracialised, have opened the gap between themselves and the mass of poor schools, in part as a result of government policies seeking energetically to correct the wrongs of the past.

“Well-resourced schools with qualified teachers tend to land on their feet in face of yet another new government policy; for the rest of the schools, these policy intrusions become little more than yet another administrative burden to cope with.”

Jansen slammed the day-to-day conditions in schools.

“The stifling cultures of teaching and learning have not improved in most schools. Routines of management and teaching remain non-existent, erratic and unpredictable. Long periods of instructional time are wasted, with or without the seasonal strikes to which the most disadvantaged schools have become so accustomed.

“While we could debate whether things are worse than under apartheid, a la Mamphela Ramphele, we could surely agree they have not changed – for most black schools – since apartheid.”

He said while business and NGOs played a role in improving education, they were unable to bring about the systemic change required – that was the role of government.

But, Jansen added: “Government cannot change schools, for it lacks the political will to take on the unions and the provincial powers of the ruling party to make the necessary change.”

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