Lungile Buthelezi
Barnato Park High School, Johannesburg, South Africa



ARTICLE 32 of the South African constitution provides a framework within which educational objectives are to be defined:

  • Basic education and equal access to educational institutions.
  • Equal opportunities for education, irrespective of race, colour, creed or gender should be created.

The key question is where is education at present, where do we want it to go, how do we get there and what must we do to get it there.

It is generally acknowledged that, in the pre-democratic era, apartheid was a system which empowered white and consciously disempowered blacks in general and Africans in particular. This was particularly the case with the apartheid education system.

In the 1990ís the issue that has surfaced mostly in public debates and discussions has been the opening of historically whites exclusive schools to children from all sectors of the South African Society. The question of access to opportunities.

And the current debates are about the tendency to look at the future and educational standards thereof, without taking into account the effects of change on these schools as they are being transformed into non-racial institutions.

This has resulted in dilemmas of education such as the language.

  • The emerging non-racial schools use English as the medium of instructions.
  • This has the effect of putting African Learners at a disadvantage in that English is not their mother-tongue, in most cases, not even their second language. It may be their third or fourth language out of eleven official South African language.
  • The dilemma however, is that English gives them the tool to be part of the new world, the Globalizing world. Ideally education should respond to the cultural and language needs of learners and the communities from which they come.
  • But how do we get there? What must we do to get there?

The other dilemma is that the bulk of learners come from poor and working class families who hardly can afford to keep up with the costs of education. The education system on the other hand is geared towards preparing the learners to enter Universities, which are not only much more expensive, but are not even preferred by those who can afford, who would rather send their children to Technikons.

The course content and the educational curriculum also raises another dilemma, it does not relate to the daily experiences of the bulk of the learners, which means that the evaluation methods also do not directly impact on their experiences.

For instance, the majority of the learners play and follow soccer passionately, but the exam questions may be about cricket.

In the pre-democratic era, compulsory education was fully implemented for white kids, and to certain extent, for coloureds and Indians. The political objective of extending this compulsory education system to also cover Africans has not been backed up by the necessary resources, thus remains largely not implemented on the ground.

Affirmative action:

  • The government has now closed the gap on educational expenditure between white and black learners.
  • More and more black teachers are being employed in the historically white schools.
  • This has the potential of closing the cultural gap between learners and teachers;
  • But the problem is that most of these black teachers are themselves also from the historically disadvantaged background, thus not fully equipped and ready to deliver on the higher standards and expectations of the learners, the education systems, parents and the public at large.
  • The government has introduces a teacher development programme and performance appraisal system as a means to restoring confidence in the ability of teachers.
  • The responsibility now lies with the Teacher Colleges and Universities to prepare the future teachers fir the future.
  • There is now a shift of power in the schools, learners have rights and are protected by law, this however has to tendency of disempowering teachers and the school management.


  • A democratic approach to the curriculum should imply a different kind of use of teaching and learning materials.
  • The pre-democratic era education was by and large too academic and failed to prepare learners for vocation.
  • In response, the Outcome Based Education was introduces (Curriculum 2005). The ultimate aim is to make the education system more meaningful to individual learners, and African learners in particular.
  • It is holistic approach to education.

School governance:

  • The new system attempts to involve parents in the education and learning process of their children.
  • The intention is to ensure that parents know and understand to needs of the school and the learners.

The ultimate question is whether education is intended to meet needs of an individual or those of society at large. I believe that the quality of the society in linked to that of the individuals that make up that society.

The government may be introducing new policies that are in line with the best in the world. But to the individual teacher, these are confusing, and at times contradictory. This put tremendous pressure on the individual teacher.

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