TAKE A STRONG STAND FOR LEARNERS: STEVENSON

The editorial on Saturday 24th of March 2012 and letters 26 March 2012 in the Daily Dispatch on the education issue refer.

It is imperative that a strong stand is taken on the rights of learners for a decent education. It is the foundation of opportunity and life and your passport to a decent job which, in turn, provides one with the opportunity to escape the poverty trap. Millions of our learners face the fate of becoming another lost generation unless people stand up for their rights.

This is why Helen Zille led a Human Rights Day march on this matter.

The fact that almost 300 schools in the Eastern Cape have become redundant due to learners migrating to other schools highlights everything that is rotten with our education system in this Province.

It does not have to be like this. The truth of the matter is that in the poorest 20% of schools in the Western Cape – township schools – the grade 12 pass rate for 2011 increased from 57% to 70% while the Eastern Cape went backwards. This is because the DA implements policies that improve education. These include holding principals accountable for outcomes, bringing the inspectors back into the classrooms and barring civil servants doing business with the Province.

Why does SADTU not support these policies? Why does the Provincial Government in the Eastern Cape not adopt them? The answer is very simple – the rights of unions are placed above the rights of our learners.

The fact that learners rights to a decent education are being violated points to a failure of Government on the one hand but also highlights an underlying issue namely the lack of response by parents and civil society at large to this massive injustice that is being perpetuated on millions of learners. What we need is a new civic re-awakening. In a report in the Daily Dispatch on the 22nd March, Dr Mamphela Ramphela alluded to active citizenry being replaced by passive subjects.

In a recent article in Business Day, John Kane-Berman, Chief Executive of the South African Institute of Race Relations on a similar theme, referred to the spirit of resistance being replaced by a spirit of acquiescence. What this highlights is either a docile citizenry which is simply prepared to sit back and let a new lost generation of learners emerge or a powder keg ready to explode. Have people’s minds and willingness to act become so colonised by the ANC – for fear of losing their jobs, tenders or being accused of betraying the struggle – that they turn their backs on our future generations.

History is going to judge this era of education in the Eastern Cape harshly if nothing is done to turn the situation around.

Just as people of influence who knew better were too afraid to stand up against the apartheid machine, so today, similarly, we find many people who also know better, are too afraid to stand up against this massive injustice. What we need is a civic re-awakening where civil society takes ownership of what is happening in the schools of this Province and demand of Government and unions the changes that need to occur for a learning environment to be created. The question that remains is why people who have a history steeped in the struggle for decent education, are prepared to simply roll over and let this gross abuse of human rights continue?

We in the DA certainly wont!