Around the world, nations view education as a right, not a privilege. This ideal is emphasised through different means; such as, laws that necessitate a minimum level of education depending on which occupation one strives for and the way scholars can attend school. Most countries don’t give education a second thought. It is something that has always existed, still exists, and will always exist. However, after various instances with individuals and experiences over time, it is clear that education is not exactly seen in the same way here in South Africa. While this was the case during Apartheid, it is not the only historical account that highlights the differences between the global outlook and the South African outlook.
During the Apartheid era, Afrikaans was taught in all African schools as a form of oppression. In teaching Afrikaans, the African students weren’t allowed to learn or practice English. One would assume that receiving an education as a form of persecution is unimaginable, but this is just a primary example of how the Apartheid regime took something that ought to be a tool for illumination, motivation, and success and used it as a weapon to derail Africans, and more specifically African children.
Today, the South African educational system still endures many troubles, as do a number of educational systems globally. Language is a persistent issue, as we have 11 official languages. It is challenging for educators and administrators to strike a balance between English, Afrikaans, and the indigenous languages of the land when educating students.
It is a challenge for many families to send their children to schools, particularly those living in the impoverished areas. Some students cannot attend school as they are needed to look after the other children in the family while their parents are at work. Or, they cannot afford to send a child to school. These are only a few of the numerous reasons why education isn’t a top priority for several South Africans.
There are also inconsistencies in the quality of education found in schools across South Africa. Statistics show that an overwhelming majority of children that go to school fall far below par and thus, are leaving school with below average skills. As a result, the United States, among other countries, have assisted South Africa with its troubled education system. They are doing this by providing funding and by sponsoring South African students’ trips abroad to study their educational systems and to learn about how they address various matters in public and private schools.
However, even if a South African receives an education and qualifies for university, that does not always guarantee success. A study that interviewed a handful of young adults aged 22-29 who had all achieved tertiary education, revealed that they were yet to be hired and work a job. In the United States, for example, it is presumed that if you have a university degree, a job will come and you are considered to be “successful.” This is an example of how that mind-set differs in South Africa. Education doesn’t guarantee a job, money, or a “better” life. It also doesn’t mean that those students will leave the townships and shacks where they grew up. If a university graduate does get a good job and is making money, they might add on to the shack that they dwell in or make improvements to it. While others opt to continue to live in that shack within the township rather than moving to a “nicer” house in an unfamiliar, yet more affluent neighbourhood. The thought of relocating away from the family is a very Western ideology and one that isn’t embraced by most South Africans.
The importance of education in South Africa is stressed by the fact that the country has literacy rates of around 86.4%. As a developing country, South Africa must invest more in changing the legacy of apartheid on the education system. The significance of education in South Africa means that people are able to get security and an income that will provide for their families. By earning enough to support your family, you are able to improve your circumstances for the better.
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