News / Africa

    South Africa’s Education System Faces Huge Challenges

    Students run out of the main door as they leave the Progressive Primary in Johannesburg (2010 file photo). Progressive Primary is among an increasing number of such schools for poor South Africans underserved by a government that has struggled to close th
    Students run out of the main door as they leave the Progressive Primary in Johannesburg (2010 file photo). Progressive Primary is among an increasing number of such schools for poor South Africans underserved by a government that has struggled to close th

    Multimedia

    Audio
    • report on challenges to South Africa's education system

    This is Part 12 of a 12-part series:  Education in Africa
    Continue to Parts: 1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5 /
    6 / 7/ 8 / 9 / 10 / 11 /12

     

    Since 1994, after the introduction of compulsory education in South Africa, the number of children attending school has risen sharply.  However, structural problems in the education system have resulted in many poorly prepared high school graduates and high numbers of dropouts in the final grades.

    In December, the South Africa government hailed the 70 percent pass rate for percent high school final exams, as a major achievement.  It has risen every year since 2008 when 62.5 percent of students passed.

    These statistics, although reflecting an improvement in South Africa’s basic education system, mask some major shortcomings that concern many education specialists here.

    Major advances

    Shireen Motala, director of research and innovation in the department of Post Graduate Studies at the University of Johannesburg, tells VOA that access to basic education in South Africa is no longer the problem, and that most children stay in school until about 16.  But she notes less than 50 percent of children who start school write their final high school examination, known in South Africa as "matric."   That equals 600,000 students who dropped out by last year.

    "In fact of the cohort who sat the [high school examination] in 2011, and those who started in 2000, only about, I think, around 45 percent survived, which means that a large number of children are falling by the wayside and the concern is that where do those learners actually go to," said Motala.

    Marketable skills

    With an unemployment rate in South Africa of 24 percent, dropouts have a bleak future as they must compete with high school, college and university graduates for jobs.

    Researchers say that the country’s schools produce too few math and science graduates capable of pursuing those subjects at a tertiary level.

    Graeme Bloch, visiting adjunct professor at the School of Public and Development Management at the University of the Witwatersrand, says this is because teachers and schools are ill equipped to adequately teach these subjects.

    "The reality of poverty and resources, that children don’t see laboratories and partly, as a result their science marks, are not very good, because they don’t have libraries at school.  Ninety-two percent of the schools don’t have libraries," said Bloch.

    Rural areas lag behind

    Education specialists say many historically disadvantaged schools in rural areas and townships are dysfunctional because the principals or the teachers, or both, are failing.  They say, in some cases, the failure is because dereliction of duty and many simply do not have the skills or appropriate training for their jobs, particularly in the important subjects of math and science.  Motala says there are a number of causes for these weaknesses.

    "I think a number of teachers were trained during apartheid, which means the training was not up to standard," she said. "Secondly we’ve had many processes of curriculum reform in the last 15 years, which I think has been quite confusing for teachers.  And, finally, there is the big issues of language, which we haven’t taken enough cognizance of, but I think is a huge problem."

    Language is a problem because subjects such as math and science are taught in English from about age 10 and many teachers don’t have the English language skills to do so.  Motala says it is fundamental that teachers are able to impart knowledge in a way that is accessible to the students.

    Gender gap

    Basic Education Minister Angie Motshega says the government will improve the participation and performance of female students, assist students to make appropriate subject choices, ensure the correct teachers are in the correct jobs and focus teacher development efforts on subject and content knowledge.

    Motshega says the government will also work with private partners, such as the Shuttleworth Foundation, which has developed math and science textbooks for Grades 10, 11 and 12.  They will be distributed to schools starting this year, free of charge.

    You May Like

    How Aleppo Rebels Plan to Withstand Assad's Siege

    Rebels in Aleppo are laying plans to withstand a siege by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces in likelihood the regime cuts a final main supply line running west of city

    Probe Targeting China's Statistic Head Sparks Concern

    Economists now asking what prompted government to launch an investigation only months after Wang Baoan had been vetted for crucial job

    HRW: Both Sides in Ukraine Conflict Targeted, Used Schools

    Rights group documents how both sides in Ukraine conflict carried out attacks on schools and used them for military purposes

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growthi
    X
    February 10, 2016 5:54 AM
    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growth

    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Civil Rights Pioneer Remembers Struggle for Voting Rights

    February is Black History Month in the United States. The annual, month-long national observance pays tribute to important people and events that shaped the history of African Americans. VOA's Chris Simkins reports how one man fought against discrimination to help millions of blacks obtain the right to vote
    Video

    Video Jordanian Theater Group Stages Anti-Terrorism Message

    The lure of the self-styled “Islamic State” has many parents worried about their children who may be susceptible to the organization’s online propaganda. Dozens of Muslim communities in the Middle East are fighting back -- giving young adults alternatives to violence. One group in Jordan is using dramatic expression a send a family message. Mideast Broadcasting Network correspondent Haider Al Abdali shared this report with VOA. It’s narrated by Bronwyn Benito
    Video

    Video Migrant Crisis Fuels Debate Over Britain’s Future in EU

    The migrant crisis in Europe is fueling the debate in Britain ahead of a referendum on staying in the European Union that may be held this year. Prime Minister David Cameron warns that leaving the EU could lead to thousands more migrants arriving in the country. Meanwhile, tension is rising in Calais, France, where thousands of migrants are living in squalid camps. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Valentine's Day Stinks for Lebanese Clowns

    This weekend, on Valentine's Day in Lebanon, love is not the only thing in the air. More than half a year after the country's trash crisis began, the stink of uncollected garbage remains on the streets. Step forward "Clown Me In," a group of clowns who use their skills for activism. Before the most romantic day of the year the clowns have released their unusual take on love in Lebanon -- in a bid to keep the pressure up and get the trash off the streets. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Families Flee Aleppo for Kurdish Regions in Syria

    Not all who flee the fighting in Aleppo are trying to cross the border into Turkey. A VOA reporter caught up with several families heading for Kurdish-held areas of northern Syria.
    Video

    Video Rocky Year Ahead for Nigeria Amid Oil Price Crash

    The global fall in the price of oil has rattled the economies of many petroleum exporters, and Africa’s oil king Nigeria is no exception. As Chris Stein reports from Lagos, analysts are predicting a rough year ahead for the continent’s top producer of crude.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.