Thursday, 24 November 2016
Bridging Classes: Fixing the Inequality Divide through Education
The squeaky wheel gets the grease, as the Americans say. For our #FeesMustFall student protesters, ‘grease’ has come in the form of an additional R17bn for higher education from Higher Education Minister, Blade Nzimande, over the next three years.
While the protesters are within their rights, what some refer to as the most integral education sector – Early Childhood Development (ECD) – is being effectively muted by comparison. Poor foundation phase education lies at the heart of SA’s most harrowing education challenges, like poor literacy and a lack of numeracy aptitude. Yet, there is no identifiable government programme for financing the construction of new ECD facilities. Let alone, upgrading and maintaining existing ECD facilities, and improving general access.
The only hunger that a child should experience is the hunger to learn. But, sadly, South Africa’s children continue to go hungry, and the country’s macro-economic ills continue to push these potential stars further back in the pecking order.
South Africa’s notoriety for being the most unequal society in the world – our gini coefficient hovers at 0.69, with 1 representing a perfectly unequal society – has resulted in our children being disenfranchised. In a no-growth economy, and in a country gripped by extreme social and political turmoil, inequality is an evil that must be vanquished for the good of us all.
Measures of inequality are based on access to basic services, including health care, essential infrastructure, electricity supply, sanitation, and education. However, quality education can scarcely be expected to occur in the presence of enormous lack in the other areas. Poor teacher education, a lack of sanitation and infrastructure, and poor learning resources in rural areas mean that quite aside from the injustice faced by children without access to ECD centres, inequality wreaks havoc even among those rural children who do indeed attend ECD centres.
According to the World Bank, only 30% of South Africa’s black children have dual-parent households, in contrast to 83% of white children. On average, black children are also more likely to have a large number of siblings, live in poorer or informal areas, and are orphaned or part of a child-headed household. There is, of course, also the cataclysmic state of the education system in South Africa, which sees our children’s numeracy and literacy ranking among the lowest in the world. This stems from a flawed ECD phase. It is important to therefore consider statistics published by the World Bank, that show that 60% of South African school leavers do not have a proper matriculation, and those that do pass, do so with an aggregate mark of less than 40%. Low quality education also contributes enormously to unemployment, which in turn proliferates the prevailing inequality.
ECD is the psychological, social and physiological education and care of small children, younger than school-going age. It comprises quality nutrition needed for the healthy development of the child’s brain and musculoskeletal system; social interaction, love and affection; health care and treatment; age-appropriate physical exercise and strengthening; and cognitive and academic opportunities for learning. The South African government and National Development Agency are aware of the need for quality ECD centres, citing scientific studies that prove that the academic abilities of school pupils, students and graduates are enhanced through their involvement in ECD from a young age. But is government playing its role in executing early learner development programmes? Then, there’s the question of whether parents have been educated around the benefits of their children attending ECD centres, before primary school-going age.
One of the reasons that ECD seems unlikely to reach the lofty goal of being universally accessible and equitable by 2030, as set by government, is the restrictive costs of establishment and attendance. Our government provides a miniscule subsidy for indigent children’s education, an amount which scarcely enables attaining even the bare minimum required by legislation to open an ECD centre. This presents an obstacle to the construction of new facilities, upgrading current ones, and improving resources and equipment to better the state of facilities.
Only one third of the children eligible to attend ECD programmes have access to them. And a sore lack of governmental policy is hampering the coordination and integration of ECD into an actionable plan. Established ECD programmes and centres provide economic and social benefit through giving job-seeking parents an opportunity to work away from home, and be stimulated themselves. Add to this, children’s improved proficiency at school, improved intellectual development, better social competency, and higher verbal and intellectual capabilities. In turn, these skills contribute to a stronger workforce and a more productive populace, shrinking the inequality divide.
So, if there’s any squeaking to be done, let it be to project the voice in favour of quality early foundation phase education for our children. While they’re in no position to march to parliament and present a memorandum and demand to be heard, they’re the silent carriers of the unlocked economic potential of SA Inc. The South African government and civil society hold the key to this potential. Why won’t we unlock it – together?
Kate Cole – IQ Business
Who is Marc Evan Aupiais?Attorney; Writer; Enthusiast of Germanic, Celtic, & Romance languages, with a love of exploring law, speech, legal systems, linguistics, sociology, & int. news.
I have always been fascinated with the law. By chance, it happens to be my field. I am an admitted attorney of the High Court of South Africa, as of 28 January 2016.
It was my fellow students' suggestions, in the final years of school, that I might be suited to a career in law, along with long discussions with a friend of mine - which imbued me with a keen interest in the history, language, and laws of the Roman Empire - that made me realise that law was the choice of career that best suited the ideas and plans I had for the future. I enrolled in an LLB degree at Wits University and subsequently graduated Bachelor of Laws a few years later.
I completed, with distinction, the Law Society's Legal Education and Development (L.E.A.D) School for Legal Practice program. I am pleased to have had the privilege of having served at two very different firms during my articles, giving me a much broader experience of work in the profession.
I believe success requires not just hard work, but intelligence, perseverance, humility, integrity, ingenuity, diligence, a strong work ethic, and the courage to request the assistance of those better-versed in a matter, or field.
I am passionate about the place of my birth, South Africa and am proud to be a patriot and citizen of this diverse and beautiful nation. I consider myself a global citizen and keep connections in a number of different nations across the world. Communicating with people from other cultures, I believe, has aided me to have a more open-minded approach in so far as how I see and interact with the world.
The cultures and legal systems, morals, and courtesy systems, languages, intricacies and religions of South Africa and of the world, are subjects I love to research. I extensively enjoy reading and writing, and in keeping abreast with important events occurring in other countries, I find my knowledge of other languages, especially French, to be quite useful.
Law & Career
Law firms I have worked at include: DL Wilson Attorneys in Randburg North, Desmond Barry Attorneys in Morningside, Sandton, Botha & Sutherland Attorneys in Aukland Park, Johannesburg. I currently work as a Consulting Attorney for Serina Govender Inc. Attorneys-at-Law. My professional website will tell you more about me, where you might want to subscribe to my professional blog . I also edit and write for the SACNS, write breaking news for a multinational service called InfosNews Breaking News, and act as a correspondent for the popular french language Les News service.
Novels I have written include
A Lesser Instinct | My first foray into the world of long form fiction.
Read it without payment - on Scribd.
Podcasting and YouTube
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