Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga. Picture: GCIS
The announcement by the minister of basic education to formalise the General Education Certificate (GEC) has been met with outrage and correctly so.

Hendrik Verwoerd and DF Malan must be singing in their graves as millions of black youth, African and coloured in particular, continue to be condemned to being hewers of wood and drawers of water.

No doubt, very few developing countries’ tertiary education systems can manage to send their entire populations to colleges and universities. With over a billion people each, emerging economies such as China and India cannot afford to send every single citizen to college, never mind university. 

We must agree too, that not everyone should go to university nor even college but the development of critical and scarce skills remain a developmental imperative for South Africa. Artisans, among other technical skills, are sorely needed.

According to the UN Development Programme’s Human Development Reports, in 1994, the expected number of years in schooling was 12 years for South Africa. By 2017, with the introduction of Grade R, it had increased to 13 years. The report suggests that this is the number of years of schooling that a child of school entrance age can expect to receive if prevailing patterns of age-specific enrolment rates persist throughout the child’s life.

In South Africa, with the introduction of GEC we can therefore expect to go from 13 years of schooling to 9. Yet this does not even take into account the current high drop-out rate between Grades R and 12.

Keeping young people in education and training almost guarantees a ripple effect on the economy and employment because they have a better basic education. If we were to compare this to our BRICS partners then the expected years of schooling in Brazil and Russia is 15 years, India is 12 years while China is at 13 years.

One wonders why the minister of basic education has decided to pursue this policy even though her spokespeople suggested that the idea was proposed as far back as 1995 already.

The ANC’s 54th national conference resolutions speak nowhere of this policy instead they insist that “TVET colleges need to progressively offer qualifications for Grade 12 entrants on Levels 5 and 6.”

There should be little doubt that the minister is trying to address a pear problem with an apple solution. Imagine a learner leaving for a college now with a weak Grade 9 instead of a weak Grade 12.

Our children and country will suffer dearly because we have inculcated a short-cut culture within our education system.

* Tau is provincial secretary of the South African Students Congress in Mpumalanga, Mabude is the provincial chairperson of Sasco in KZN and Matiwane is provincial chairperson of Sasco in the Western Cape.

** The views expressed herein are not necessarily those of Independent Media