Stellenbosch University’s Professor Jonathan Jansen says blaming colonial rulers for the poor education system is not the solution. Picture: David Ritchie/African News Agency (ANA)
Cape Town - Professor Jonathan Jansen is not as concerned about the decolonisation of education as he is about how the government has failed schools.

Speaking at a “Decolonising Education” seminar on Thursday organised by the Robben Island Museum, Jansen, who is Distinguished Professor in the Faculty of Education at Stellenbosch University, slammed what was happening in schools as a “disgrace”.

“I come to this project of decolonisation with a lot of scepticism. Not because I don’t believe we were colonised, of course we were.

“The effects of colonial rule are still with us. But in the way that we politicise this (decolonisation) we take away from the strategic things that we can do to change the status quo.”

He said for change to occur, greater action was needed from the government to solve the problems in education.

“We just discovered that almost eight out of 10 children cannot read in Grade 4 - for understanding. They see words but they don’t know what it means and we can have a long debate about who caused this - maybe it was the colonial rulers - but it’s been 20-odd years into our democracy and we still have this problem.

“In my part of the world, a kid just drowned in a hole in the ground and suffocated in human faeces. I don’t want to blame colonial rule for that; I want to know what my government did.”

Jansen believes decolonisation in education needs to begin from the ground up, rather than at university level.

“In every province you can drive and within 30 minutes you can go from a school like Michaelhouse or Bishops to a school in a shack. No amount of analysis is going to change that, except for the action of people, and that action can’t just be at universities.”

“If you want to change the education system in a country you don’t go to universities - less than 20% of our young people go to universities - you start with the preschools.

“There’s one debate that no education expert in the world has and that is that if a child goes to a poor-quality school and another a high-quality - you already start at a disadvantage,” Jansen said.

Weekend Argus