The Year of Education: Shaping an African Fit for the 21st Century

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The Year of Education: Shaping an African Fit for the 21st Century

Published on: June 13th, 2024

As South Africa stands on the brink of its upcoming elections, the tail-end of May which is also Africa month, serves as an apt time for reflection. The Africa Month theme “The Year of Education: Educating an African Fit for the 21st Century” resonates more profoundly than ever. In a rapidly evolving global landscape, the future of our children and the prosperity of our nation hinges on the decisions we make at the polls. This 7th democratic election is not just about selecting leaders but about shaping the trajectory of our education system and, consequently, our country’s future.

According to a report published by Amnesty International in 2020, the South African education system is characterised by crumbling infrastructure, overcrowded classrooms and relatively poor educational outcomes. This is perpetuating inequality and as a result failing too many of its children, with the poor hardest hit. Being four years later, not much has changed.

In these circumstances it is not surprising that educational outcomes remain relatively poor. For example, a recent international survey found that more than three quarters of children aged nine (in Grade 4) cannot read for meaning. In some provinces this is as high as 91% in Limpopo and 85% in the Eastern Cape. Of 100 learners that start school, only 50-60 will make it to Matric, 40-50 will pass matric, and only 14 will go to university.

According to Amnesty International’s Executive Director, Shenilla Mohamed: “South Africa has one of the most unequal school systems in the world. Children in the top 200 schools achieve more distinctions in mathematics than children in the next 6,600 schools combined. The playing field must be levelled.”

Education as a Cornerstone of Development

The 21st century has ushered in an era where digital literacy, critical thinking and innovative problem-solving are paramount. For Africa to thrive in this environment, our education system must undergo significant transformation. It must be able to equip our young minds with skills that align with the demands of the modern world. This means focusing on traditional academics and integrating technology and creativity while encouraging entrepreneurial mindsets.

The Role of Informed Voting

As citizens, we hold the power to influence this transformation through our votes. Each candidate’s stance on education policies will directly impact our children’s ability to compete globally. It is crucial to scrutinise each party’s plans for educational reform, funding, teacher training and curriculum development. Are they committed to reducing disparities in access to quality education? Do they have a clear strategy for integrating digital skills into the classroom? These are the questions that should guide our voting decisions, posits Afrika Tikkun Group CEO, Dr. Onyi Nwaneri.

Prioritising Education in Political Agendas

Candidates who prioritise education understand that it is the foundation upon which a robust economy and a vibrant society are built. Investing in education means investing in our future doctors, engineers, artists and leaders. It is essential to support leaders who recognise the importance of early childhood education, the need for continuous professional development for educators and the necessity of making higher education accessible to all.

Our Future at Stake

The future of South Africa is inextricably linked to the quality of education we provide to our youth today. As we approach the polls, we must consider the long-term impact of our choices. An informed electorate can drive the change needed to create an education system that is equitable, inclusive and forward-thinking.

Creating an African Fit for the 21st Century

“The Year of Education: Educating an African Fit for the 21st Century” is not just a slogan; it is a call to action. It demands that we, as voters, prioritise education and elect leaders committed to overhauling and advancing our education system. By doing so, we can ensure that our children are prepared to meet the challenges of the future head-on and contribute meaningfully to a global society.

In conclusion, as we head to the polls, let us vote with the future of our children in mind. Let us choose leaders who will champion educational excellence and innovation. The decisions we make today will determine the opportunities available to the next generation. Together, we can shape an African fit for the 21st century, starting with a commitment to quality education for all.