Let's Turn Education On Its Head

I'm curious to know why everyone would have to learn how to speak English if everyone in their community speaks a common language other than English?

Educating children is supposed to empower them to later allow them to become independent,  gainfully employed, consumers of society. Oh! Sorry! Cough, Cough, I meant doctors, lawyers and bankers or so the children are told by parents and teachers. But the current curriculum has a blanket approach that says kids must all get degrees to become leaders in society, yet the same system does not actually teach kids how to manage budgets, create things and sell things so that they may be independent and autonomous citizens. The language used to teach is in itself a barrier to success for the millions of people who do not and will not ever move from their local communities.

How much easier would it be for the teachers to teach and for the learner to learn especially in rural areas if teachers were able to teach in their native language? English would be taught as a secondary language - I can hear everyone spluttering but, but, but and I see them raising their hands in objection but just pause for a second and allow the possibility to that thought to sink in.
Photo by Joan Laine (c) - Model - Dancer Muzi Shili

Whilst you are thinking here are recent unemployment facts. There were approximately 10,3 million persons aged 15–24 years in the second quarter of 2018. Between Q2: 2017 and Q2: 2018, the percentage of young persons aged 15–24 years who were not in employment, education or training (NEET) declined by 0,6 of a percentage point to 31,6% (3,3 million). Source: http://www.statssa.gov

What part might language play in these high unemployment rates?

There are 11 official languages spoken in South Africa in addition, many people understand and can speak Zulu even if it is not their native languages. A few years ago, there were initiatives to ensure that all public posters and communications were issued in several South African languages. Why did it stop? Never mind!

Language name
Speakers as a 1st language
Of population
Sesotho sa Leboa
Other languages

Let's get back to the thought. What opens up as a possibility if children were taught in vernacular....?

Doing things differently to get a different result is one of the keys to transformation. Radical change is needed if we are to lift Africans out of dependency. So, here's a thought! What impact would it have on employment and migration to the big cities, if business was conducted in vernacular languages in the rural areas. I am talking about areas where there are insufficient English or Maths teachers appointed, which means the majority of the children cannot get past grade 10.

People in these rural areas commute mainly on foot and by hitch hiking, which limits how far they can travel to and from school and work. If vernacular language was used, local businesses would be relevant because young people would stay in their communities and colleges, trade schools could be built locally to accommodate the young people who, would later be servicing their home towns. English and other languages could be taught as their secondary languages.

I understand the status symbol attached to working in the big cities - it means you have made it! But the reality is that there are not enough jobs in the cities as there are people, which is why there are so many squatter camps and informal settlements, where people are pushed to live in squalid conditions in the suburbs of these cities. People may spend as much as 6 hours commuting to Sandton and Rosebank, where the huge office towers and mega malls are. They spend sometimes more than 25% of their income on transport and little quality time with their kids since they have to get up early and get home late. Since the majority of people speak Zulu in Johannesburg, if people were educated in their own language, would that change the manor in which we design and develop these suburban cities like Alexandra, Diepsloot or Cosmo City? Would we finally begin to see these office towers and mega malls built in Soweto, a city of ±1.5 million people, yet the town planning and infrastructure remains similar to that of the apartheid era more than 20 years later?

My question is what do we need to do differently to get different results? It is not about scorecard changes or quick fixes it is about transforming the foundations upon which we build our future societies, which means we must change the way we teach and learn. Before we start introducing Mandarin to schools as the next secondary language, think about where the majority of people live, the probability of them moving away from those areas and how to rather let them develop career opportunities where they are, than abandon their communities and move to cities that cannot accommodate them. Let's get back to basics and return power to the people by first of all giving them their voice back in their own language.

Let's call upon the Department of Education, Department of Higher Education, The Community Leaders, The Private Sector and anyone else who actually has the power to implement radical transformation and let us do it. The private leadership schools are already doing things radically differently - let's follow them by starting with the question - is teaching in vernacular a viable option for the future of work in rural areas in South Africa?

What do you think as a student, entrepreneur, unemployed person or employer? Where would we start I hear you say? Funny you should ask...

Let's start with you! Share your thoughts on the above. If you are interested, let's out together a coalition to get the ball moving.


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