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Debating the state of Education in South Africa

On 29 January 2009 the Sunday Times Columnist, Professor Jonathan Jansen challenged all parties to answer a series of questions in a column entitled Vital Questions for Politicians

1. What will your party do if an MEC for education in one of the provinces shows blatant disregard for a scheduled meeting of the minister of education to discuss the opening of the school year, and trots off to attend the court proceedings for the president of her political party?
2. Given the acknowledged failure to deliver in the provinces on noble policies at the national level, would you appoint people to critical positions on the basis of their loyalty to the party, or on the basis of their competence?
3. What would you do if the largest teachers’ union, an ally of Cosatu (which itself is a member of the alliance), decides, like they did before, to close down and disrupt schools for weeks or months in the interest of their teachers – but to the devastation of pupil s and learning in our poorest schools?
4. Given the evidence that poor leadership is to blame in many of the country’s most dysfunctional schools, would you fire serially ineffective principals despite their loyalties to the dominant party?
5. Given the additional evidence of schools in each province that repeatedly fail masses of learners, are you prepared to appoint an administrator to take over seriously malfunctioning schools – just as the legislation permits malfunctioning universities to be taken over by government?
6. Given further evidence that in many of the under-performing schools, the problem is the teachers’ knowledge of the subject matter, would you act against the protectionist instincts of the teachers’ unions and test every teacher to see whether they know enough to teach our children?
7. Given the increasing demand for higher education in the country, would you “uncap” the limits imposed on university enrolments by the education department so that all young people who qualify can enjoy access to advanced training?
8. Given that the children of the middle classes start with a huge advantage in grade 1 because they attended excellent preschools, will you make and fund a compulsory, quality preschool for all children?
9. Given the fact that the 2008 Mathematical Literacy paper contained a majority of questions common to much lower school grades, are you prepared to admit that the standard of education in the country is appallingly low?
10. Given the fact that the most competent teachers in the deep rural areas are often from India and Zimbabwe, are you prepared to permit a massive inflow of foreign teachers to help – in the short term – particularly with mathematics and science teaching in our poorest schools?
11. Given the obvious incapacity of the Eastern Cape province to offer even a modicum of quality education to the majority living in that province -despite the rapid turnovers in the heads of department and MECs – is your party prepared to petition the national government to take over education in that province in the interest of the pupils?

The ANC have responded to these questions in its weekly column. To read the ANCs answers go to Ray Hartley’s Sunday Times Blog The Wild Frontier by Clicking Here!

Go directly to the ANCs web site by Clicking Here