Our Education Is NOT The Key

Primary School of the Fittest

First and foremost, let me start by saying that education was actually how I got over most of the initial obstacles in my life. But even though MY education as a black South African child did the darn things to garner me some minor successes in a form of a degree and being an employed professional, I haven’t seen OUR education as black children do as much as for US (as the black community) as we want it to. I could’ve chosen to substantiate this whole post with stats but I have lived experiences. Allow me to start with recalling my times in primary school to make my point.

I remember my times in primary school. With all the other kids and friends I grew up with in Nellmapius. Most of us moved here in 1998. From then till 2003 the whole township had one primary school to facilitate the education of all the kids, myself included.

I remember how the school was split into two groups of learners who occupied the school at different times of the school day just so they could accommodate the immense number of learners that needed formal education. From the morning till midday, grade 1 till grade 3 learners would attend classes, then from midday till afternoon, grade 4 till grade 7 learners would attend. Lunch was a time where one group left the school and another group arrived to start class. Which meant that time for extra mural activities , and resources were very limited. We didn’t have time for sports,unless sports were in season. We didn’t have access to a library, unless one of those mobile libraries was parked in front of the gate.

Member one of those buses filled with books, which came through at least once a week, and featured on a snippet of Takaleni Sesame? Yes I member

I remember queuing during lunch to take a book from the mobile library. A very whimsical experience. Where you would walk in and be surrounded by books until you walked out the other end of the bus. Which meant that one had to browse as they made their way out the bus and shouldn’t turn back/stand in one spot for too long unless they wanna hold up the queue for all the other kids outside or they wanted to be late for the first class of the day (depending on which grade they were in). I only remember taking out two books from this bus. One whose contents I don’t remember and another book about a dog named bolt which I don’t think I finished reading cause I had to return the book a week later or something like that to allow for library circulation. This meant that learners who were slow readers didn’t have the time/supervision to improve their reading if they actually had the desire to pick up or take out a book in the first place. If one didn’t have book smarts, they better have them good athletic genes or chances were school wasn’t any fun for them.

I remember sports season (which was just sports day for us with little athletic prowess) and how without any prior training one had to show whether or not they had an ability in a specific field. To those who were Athletes in their previous lives. Sports season was a nice ordeal where the athletically gifted learners had a chance to go sing field trip anthems while on their way to and from schools with sufficient resources to host a meet for our schools to compete in. But it was just a passing moment for the rest of us who, when the chance to make it into the bus came, never flourished. Be it because other kids ran quicker then me. Or because I didn’t know how high the pole would be when I dived under the bar in my first and last attempt at high jump. Such a lack of flourishing meant that we wouldn’t get subsequent opportunities/resources to develop skill or interest in a sport. But even though the ones with the skill got subsequent opportunities they didn’t get groomed out side the scope of sports season. Once they came back from competing the equipment was usually put away till the next year or it was still used if they progressed to the next level of the competition. Competing against learners who probably got the time and resources to practice all year around. How any of my then class mates even advanced to the next stage is a secrete God will probably let us know in the Next Testament of the bible, but for know it remains the miracle of “it runs in the family”. Family which were usually not perfect, but ones who made great efforts to get their kids an education in promise for a better future. No matter what the situation may have been at the time.

I remember the dire circumstances which often lead to kids dropping out. Circumstances redacted to pregnancy, drugs, and grassroots poverty. For some reason, rather then help our communities thought it better to react to each incident with the same stigma as we did when the first of the many incidents occurred. And so our schools and communities never made room for the circumstances that we all had to run from. There was a tolerance, but it was a more hostile tolerance then anything else. A “the longer we allow such to carry on, the more we risk the same fate for the other kids” type of tolerance. As if one’s future dies at the first challenge one falls victim to. Our schools didn’t have enough room for all of us in the first place, and sadly the idea of one less kid “taking up space and resources” was subconsciously welcome. I don’t remember anyone saying this out loud, but I do remember how many consecutive days a kid would have to be absent before the teachers stop calling them out while taking register (you are welcome to take a guess).

How can such an education system be the key for OUR success as a previously disadvantaged people. I think situations at most primary schools have improved when it comes to resources and time allocations. But I don’t think anything was ever done to correct how the primary schools have failed in the years building up to their current point of accomplishment. This failure only leads to the community suffering. Where do all those kids who the education system failed at a very early stage go? Does the rehabilitation center work for those that fall under the spell of drugs? Does the corrections center send back fully functioning members of the community after they serve time for committing hunger crimes? Does the village still raise the child born by a child? How will the see tomorrow?

I don’t think our communities will ever flourish as long as we don’t pay as much attention to our shortcomings as when we celebrate our few successes. Matter fact, I believe that it will get to a point where our little successes alienate us from the very communities we grew up in. You get a job and move closer to work for whatever reason you deem fit (shorter travel times, lesser crime rate, more reliable network coverage, more reliable electricity/water supply). Leaving the less economically emancipated individuals to fight for basic living conditions. An immediate increase in protest.

In conclusion I don’t think our education will unlock good fortunes for our communities, but rather our education will lock out the fortunate from our (soon to be (even more)) unfortunate communities.

I could be wrong. Feel free to add your thoughts to the conversation.