Friday, July 9, 2010

South Africa’s Education System Farce!

About 2 years after the ANC government took over the reins of power in South Africa in April 1994, they started exploring the possibility of replacing the old apartheid system of education with a new system called Outcome-Based Education (OBE). Many reasons were given why change was absolutely necessary, but in the end it all boiled down to the ‘reformation’ of South Africa’s underprivileged youth.

They had to catch-up and become ‘equal’ to the privileged white minority group, – at all cost, and with absolutely no regard to what the concept of ‘being equal’ actually meant, and also without any regard to the negative consequences their hasty decisions and poor planning would eventually bring about.

In their haste to implement a new education system as soon as possible, the ANC took the typical African route and chose the quickest and laziest means by simply copying and adopting OBE modules used by other developed western countries. No one bothered to notice that the OBE system had already hopelessly failed in most of those countries, or that certain basic essential requirements were needed for the system to work efficiently, -- for example: smaller well-equipped classrooms with less pupils per class, and more qualified teachers. Today the ANC government has the cheek to blame outside ‘consultants’ for swindling them into accepting the OBE system.

I can still recall how the government hammered on the issue how the new OBE approach was a positive step forward and that, most importantly, -- that it was aimed at addressing disparities in the education system caused by apartheid. I am still confused about these so-called ‘disparities’, particularly if one looks at the academic achievements many blacks obtained at prominent universities in the country as well as overseas after receiving their basic education under the ‘old’ apartheid system. There are 1000’s of successful black African academics, - too many to mention here, but just for the record I’ll mention a few prominent names:

Dr Mamphela Ramphele, a South African medical doctor and anthropologist, who incidentally was one of the most prominent critics of the OBE system when the ANC government decided to implement it.

Dr Sibusiso Sibisi, who is currently the President and chief executive officer of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research in South Africa. He was born and raised in Marianhill in the midlands of KwaZulu-Natal in May 1955, and completed his basic education at San Francis outside Durban, during the apartheid era.

Dr Thebe Medupe, a South African astrophysicist who grew up in a poor village outside Mmabatho, without electricity, lights or television.

Tebello Nyokong, a South African researcher of a ground-breaking cancer diagnosis and treatment. She graduated in 1977, during the apartheid era, from the National University of Lesotho.

A national disaster from day one!

The new (now old) OBE curriculum was first introduced to Grade 1 pupils in 1998, and subsequently to other grades over the following decade. It was a disaster from day one! The classes were simply to big for one teacher to manage effectively, but the teachers were too proud (or too afraid) to admit this, and often blamed the kids for not paying attention. The end result of this chaos was that 1000’s of young kids (mainly white pupils, who were covered by medial aid) were over-diagnosed as having symptoms of Attention Deficit-Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). They were treated with a central-nervous-system stimulant, known as the drug Ritalin, which is almost chemically similar to cocaine, hence the reason why it is today referred to as “Kiddie Cocaine” or “Kiddie Coke”. The drug is classified by the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in the same category as cocaine and morphine. (See my previous, very short, article on this issue: Drugs R Killing our Kids, and also the more comprehensive article on the web site of Adopt a Drug Addict)

I had two sons at primary school back then, in Grade 1 and Grade 4 respectively. Before the end of the first term in 1998, the Grade 1 class of 40-plus pupils were ALL ON RITALIN, - every single one of them! Many of those kids, including my youngest son, grew up to become drug addicts, with Ritalin being the main underlying ‘stimulant’. Obviously, the aggressive marketing strategies of the pharmaceutical company, CIBA-Geigy Corporation during that time, had a lot to do with this mess, -- so I suppose the useless OBE system of education can thus not take all the blame!

I can still clearly remember during those years how my two sons and I enjoyed working on the many projects together, -- practical assignments that were an essential part of the OBE system of project-based learning. Although there were times when I felt that it was MY project and not the child’s that was going to be presented to the school, some teachers were quick to identify when a specific project showed an above average degree of ‘parental influence’. I really hated those teachers when ‘MY projects’ got such low marks!

By the time my two sons had reached their high-school grades in the year 2006, their little sister entered Grade 1 into a mixed multicultural classroom, which she stubbornly refused to accept from the very first day she entered school. Her excuse was always the same: “The black boys are very naughty!” I can elaborate a great deal on what my reactions were back then, and also on what the various definitions of ‘very naughty’ actually meant in a young child’s mind, but let’s leave that for now! Today I am most grateful that my daughter is residing with her mother (my ex-wife) in Australia, and that she is excelling in all her school subjects.


During the past week there has been much talk in the media about the government’s ‘new’ education policy, but in reality there is nothing new about it at all!

It is in fact a gradual modification back to the old textbook-system of learning, but the Minister of basic education, Angie Motshekga, will not admit this outright and will cover-up the ANC’s miserable failures with all sorts of lame excuses and fancy words.

It really boggles my mind to think that the government has taken so long to realize that kids need to learn how to read, write, and count, - and use their brains BEFORE they go to university!

Despite the fact that the OBE system was a failure from the start, the many excuses and explanations as to why the system failed does not make sense!

Let’s briefly examine a few:

Lame Excuse No.1
Schools were not properly resourced with libraries and computers with internet access.

This is absolute nonsense! As far as libraries are concerned, -- since 1994 every single local library in every town, bordering a black township in South Africa, was deliberately and maliciously vandalized by hordes of black pupils. Many of those libraries were restocked with new material, only to be vandalized again and again, until there was nothing left to steal. Later, when public libraries were developed inside the black townships, poor supervision, corruption, and a lack of proper management, rapidly lead to their total deterioration. Hundreds of these new buildings now stand vacant and dilapidated in townships across the country, brilliantly lit up at night by Eskom – at taxpayers expense! Many of these failed projects were paid for by foreign donations. Millions and millions of rands were simply wasted!

When the public library in Amanzimtoti was completely vandalized by vindictive black school children on numerous occasions, my own kids also bore the brunt. Their school rucksacks containing textbooks and completed projects were also stolen on several occasions, and often at the most inconvenient times. I can recall how we also battled to find suitable library books and other sources of information for the many school projects, -- but we never gave up. By the time Internet access became a popular and useful tool for the completion of projects, a good second-hand set of encyclopaedias could be picked up at most pawnshops or in JunkMail for under R100, - even R50 if you were lucky! A little imagination and a good set of encyclopaedias was all one needed to complete most of the OBE projects.

The lack of computers at schools is another lame excuse, as 100’s of private corporations, inside the country as well as overseas, have donated millions rands worth of high-tech equipment, as well as FREE TRAINING to people in disadvantaged regions, in their efforts to boost social investment programmes.

Government corruption is the main reason why many computers were never installed at some schools. The other disturbing issue, is that almost every single school in the country, where computers and other IT equipment have been installed, have been raided by criminals. When you Google the term “school computers stolen” the results you see there are a mere drop in the ocean, as most state schools never even bothered to report these thefts.

Lame Excuse No.2
The syllabus required pupils to complete four projects for each subject which had to be researched.

So what’s so difficult about that?
Prominent academics such as Dr Ramphele and Dr Sibisi have both admitted that it was their parents who pushed them to succeed. The whole idea of the OBE system was to get parents to participate in the education of their children, and not to rely totally on the government to fulfil this task, -- a completely normal and healthy approach! The successful completion of projects was specifically designed with that purpose in mind, -- but then that only worked well in a ‘civilized’ society were men only married and had kids with ONE wife, and in households where families understood the value of rearing kids with proper discipline, -- a standard that is severely lacking in today’s average household, where the latest modern trend permits television to ‘educate’ toddlers, starting from the very moment they open their eyes. Pleading poverty is also no excuse, as in many cases these same ‘poor’ people continue producing more kids, -- because guvermunt pays social grants!

Lame Excuse No.3
Teachers were overburdened with administrative tasks.

The true underlying problems are a lack of dedication, poor time-management, and the government’s senseless drive to employ unqualified Affirmative Action candidates, --- even in posts where educators are required to teach AFRIKAANS as a first language! I lie not, – I saw the advert placed by the Glenstantia Primary School with my very own eyes! (See Rekord-East Newspaper, dated Friday July 9, 2010 – page 21).

Lame Excuse No.4
Inferior performance by disadvantaged groups.

Inferior performance goes hand-in-hand with poor discipline. Children who display bad manners are usually the ones who underachieve. Their behaviour is direct reflection on how they were brought up. Poverty, poor service delivery, or oppression under apartheid, has absolutely nothing to do with it! Do yourself a favour someday and watch a cricket match on the grounds of a multiethnic primary school. Every kid who makes the cricket team knows that equipment must be treated with respect, and that all equipment must be stored away neatly after every game. Watch closely what the little dark fellows do with the equipment when their game is finished. They either walk out the school gates with, gloves, helmets, leggaurds, and all, -- or simply dump the equipment on the floor in some dark alley on the school grounds.

When a local sports administrator told me that this happens with every single game, and that after every game he has to search the premises for discarded equipment, I did not believe him, until I saw it with my own eyes. My own observations also revealed that these kids were far from disadvantaged as they were picked up in style outside the school gates by people driving very expensive luxury vehicles. One must also take into consideration that these little spoiled brats were all born quite a few years after 1994 when the ANC took charge of matters.

There’s no doubt in my mind that kids with poor discipline will also treat their newly issued textbooks with exactly the same contempt. There’s only one way to rectify this and also solve inferior performance for good, -- and that is to reintroduce Mr Cane and Mrs Pain into the school curriculum as soon as possible!

I could not help notice that some of the changes to be made to the curriculum and phased in over the next 18 months look remarkably similar to the old apartheid system of basic education:

  • The number of subjects in the intermediate phase will be reduced from eight to six, -- just like the old days!
  • Economic and management sciences will be taught from Grade 7. The same principle of adopting specialized subjects later in the curriculum were also applied in the old days.
  • Workbooks to improve learner performance in literacy and numeracy will be distributed to every teacher and pupil by next year. Well I suppose some teachers will benefit from this too!
  • Pupils will be taught in their mother tongue, and their chosen language of learning and teaching, from Grade 1, not Grade 2exactly as prescribed by the evil ol’ Dr HF Verwoerd back in the 1960’s.

How does that saying go again? - 'You can fool some of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time.'

News Reports on this issue:

Free Advice…

Get your kids out of state schools, come hell or high water!

Featured Book:

Cheesecutters and Gymslips: South Africans at Boarding School

Author: Robin Malan
Publisher: Umuzi
ISBN: 9781415200605
Publication date: June 2008
Format: Softcover

40 writers from Southern Africa offer reflections on their experience of boarding school. These are either extracts from autobiographies or pieces specially written for this collection.

Available at (South Africa)


Tia Mysoa said... .....Click here to refresh this blog

An excellent article, dated 14 July 2010, on the education crisis in South Africa can be viewed on

Latest 5 Featured Posts:

Operation Vula, its Secret Safari, and Zuma’s band of comrades - Dec. 2013
During 1986 the ANC launched an underground operation called Operation Vula. A lesser-known fact is that it continued to operate after Nelson Mandela's release in February 1990, and for three years after his speech in August 1990 when he reiterated the total commitment of the ANC, Umkhonto we Sizwe and the SACP to the Groote Schuur Minute.

Heritage Day Photographs (Voortrekker Monument) - Sept. 2013
This posting includes a few photographs taken on Heritage Day 2013. The posting introduces an unusual but beautiful new structure called QUO VADIS? (with the question mark) which I’m sure many readers have never heard of.

The Yellow-Bucket Marula Tree: A Mystery Solved! - Oct. 2013
I came across a rather strange phenomenon one day while travelling along the R561 route between Tolwe and Baltimore in the Limpopo province of South Africa. A small yellow bucket was attached high-up in a branch of a Marula tree, hence the name of this posting. It’s a real funny story which I’m sure most readers will enjoy - as much as I enjoyed compiling the article  - (with illustrations).

Pretoria’s Monument for Victims of Terrorism - July 2013
Many people (including myself) had almost forgotten about a noteworthy monument in Pretoria that stood at the entrance of the old Munitoria building on the corner of Van der Walt and Vermeulen Streets (now renamed Lilian Ngoyi and Madiba Streets). When the Munitoria building was demolished on 7 July 2013 nobody could tell me whether the monument was still standing or not, so I decided to go look for myself.

Remembering The Battle of Delville Wood - July 2013
14 July marks a day when the South African 1st Infantry Brigade got engaged in the 1916 (WW1) Battle of the Somme, in France. The battle was one of the largest of World War I, in which more than a million men were wounded or killed, making it one of humanity's bloodiest battles. One specific encounter during this battle, known as The Battle of Delville Wood, is of particular importance to South Africa. The posting includes a comprehensive article (with pictures) compiled and written by Petros Kondos.

African Countries (Alphabetical list):
(The links will redirect to the page dealing with the specific country.)