Archive for the ‘ Basic Education ’ Category

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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If I were Angie

When the teacher laptop initiative was announced by the previous Minster of Education, Naledi Pandor, in May 2009; it received wide acclaim across the board. While most of us were commending this progressive move, we forgot to ask a key question: how is it going to be implemented from the first of July 2009, the targeted roll-out date? While we should have known better, we felt Department of Education (DoE) deserved benefit of the doubt. The cliché so fitting when it comes to the government came back to haunt us.

All together now: the devil is in the detail.

Teacher Laptop Word Cloud

Teaching Word Cloud

Almost 2 years down the line, teachers are still waiting with bated breaths while DoE is battling to finalize the funding model for buying of laptops. As can be expected, the chorus of concerned media voices is growing (see “Laptops-for-teachers plan falters” in The Times of April 26, 2011). Despite these challenges, I am glad that Angie Motshekga, the Minster of Basic Education, has not once blamed the so-called previous administration for poor planning. My sense is that she is soldiering on because she believes in the initiative. I must declare that I genuinely believe Angie is one of the true action heroes of the present administration. Remember the once-famous OBE that is now in the scrap heap, thanks to her?

OK, enough rambling.

If I were Angie and I had opportunity to relaunch the project, I would start by answering the following basic questions objectively and truthfully despite possible political implications:

  • How do I digitize basic education syllabuses, to strengthen the case for use of computers in class?
  • Given the teacher population that numbers 400 000, how many of them are computer literate and how many have laptops already?
  • How do I convince teachers that using laptops in class will enhance delivery of their lessons, and thereby increase average pass marks?
  • Should I start the roll-out with senior or junior teachers?
  • Linked to the question above, and assuming that seniority is directly linked to time spent in the teaching profession, what is the chance that junior teachers are a better bet as they may be more open to experimenting with digital lessons as compared to senior teachers who may be set in their ways?
  • How do I get all key stakeholders – other government departments, student bodies, school governing bodies, teacher unions, relevant private IT service providers and other interested parties – involved to ensure this project is comprehensively planned, successfully implemented and sustainable?
  • How do I develop a mutually beneficial public-private partnership given scale of the project?
  • In line with the question above, how do I solicit active corporate participation in ensuring all boxes are ticked in relation to specifications of key elements of the project – hardware, operating systems, file management and database management systems, systems interfaces, software, Internet access, hardware and systems security, training, IT support and maintenance?
  • How is this project going to be costed and financed?
  • How are we going to know whether implementation is successful?
  • Lastly, how can we turn this project into an entrepreneurial opportunity, and how do I ensure SMME’s and BBBEE’s benefit from it?

For me, the last question would be important because it is the inverse of an admission that we as the government stuff up otherwise awesome projects due to inherent inefficiencies in the system.

If I were Angie, I would put in place the following initial SWOT based on answers to the questions above, my knowledge of department’s capacity and capabilities and my understanding of the basic education landscape:

 SWOT for Teacher Laptop Initiative

SWOT - Teacher Laptop Initiative

The SWOT analysis would be followed by putting in place a roadmap to ensuring successful implementation of the initiative. As part of developing the roadmap and relaunching the initiative, I would ensure that I stick to my knitting – and that is develop the vision, clearly define rules of the game, ensure a comprehensive plan is in place, outsource the implementation to competent service providers and use robust key performance indicators to keep them true.

Well, of course I am not Angie. But I hope she takes note of my input as a concerned citizen who, like her, believes in the teacher laptop  initiative.


I am the founder of eNitiate Integrated Solutions, a digital marketing company. I am also a co-founder of Nuffdotty and Diski4life.  I am an infopreneur, digital strategist, avid marketer, and an eternal student.

You can also check out my latest post on InMarketingSpeak, blog about Marketers’ relationship with digital marketing.