Critical challenges of the South African school system

09 July 2015

The emphasis in the new curriculum after 1996 in South Africa was placed on the transition from the traditional aims and objectives approach to Outcomes-based education (OBE) and Curriculum 2005. This paradigm shift was interpreted as a prerequisite for achievement of the vision of an internationally competitive country. When analysing the school system in South Africa it became clear that the education system was flawed, with poorly performing teachers, poor work ethics, lack of community and parental support, poor control by education authorities, poor support for teachers and very low levels of accountability. These factors further spilled over into the morale of learners and could be seen in the lack of discipline, brutal violence in schools, low moral values, truancy, absenteeism, late coming and high dropout rates from Grade 1 to Grade 12 and very poor performance in essential areas such as Mathematics and Literacy. Citizens in historically disadvantaged areas tend to become victims of poverty, gangs and drug abuse. These factors further blend with the evil of politics in South African schools which are furthermore plagued by various forms of corruption and socio-economic challenges. Eighteen years after the end of the apartheid dispensation, apartheid is still blamed by many for any real or imagined ills in society, but the reality is that there is no political will to enforce the law or to meet public expectations of accountability, efficiency and delivery. In the light hereof, recommendations are proposed that will address these challenges. The critical message of this article will convey that the fact of the matter is that learner enrolment is not the same as attendance and attendance does not imply learning. Therefore, teaching in South Africa must become a profession of preference and pride as opposed to the present very lackadaisical attitude.