Open letter to South African parents of school-going kids

Dear parents. I wish I could start this open letter by congratulating those of you whose kids passed their 2013 matric, but I feel it is too soon to do so. Reason is, while last year has seen the best matric pass rate since 1994, South Africa’s future is still in crisis, and all of us are going to be affected if this situation is not urgently addresses. What I mean by this? Take a pause to consider the following sobering stats: shocking school literacy levels, poor performance in Maths and Science subjects, unacceptable higher education dropout rates, low global competitiveness indexstubbornly high youth unemployment, and high inequality index. All these indicators are directly linked to education. As an example, we are told that 145 000 matriculants will be able to proceed to institutions of higher learning. My back-of-the-matchbox calculation indicates that the remaining 245 000 “who passed” will most probably not be able to get a job, and we know that an even lesser number will make an effort to upgrade their matric subjects this year. So what is going to happen to these kids whose future is potentially in tatters? Clearly, raving about the high matric pass rate without tracking its direct impact on the indicators above can only perpetuate a “mine is bigger than yours” mindset, where numbers become the absolute measure and nothing else really matters.

As we hear, Free State got the best matric results of them all. While we must acknowledge this as a result of the hard work and commitment on the part of teachers and scholars in that province, we must also start asking what we are going to do as parents to ensure that such results are a true reflection of the improving standard of education of our kids overall. Ownership of this responsibility lies with us parents, not the two departments of education.

As things stand, I feel that we, as parents, are failing in our responsibility to ensure that our kids get only the best education they deserve from public schools. For those of us who can afford, we take our kids to best schools, which are typically privately run. But, we know that it’s a tiny number of kids who have this privilege –  and I estimate this to be 1% at most, so what about the rest? Have we resigned ourselves to the reality that we are breeding a generation whose future is doomed because they will be so poorly equipped to deal with challenges as a result of poor quality of education? If that is the case, we might as well brand ourselves as failures.

<img src="Education_Protest_South_Africa_2013.png" alt="Education Protest in South Africa 2013">

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