The South African Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu) is calling for a complete overhaul of what it terms “a dysfunctional” public education system in the country.
Saftu General-Secretary, Zwelinzima Vavi, says the current system is not responsive to the demands of the labour market.
Vavi was speaking on the Tru FM current affairs show, Tru Newshour.
“We are in crisis when it comes to our education system. It’s dysfunctional. It is offloading hundreds and thousands of our kids before they reach grade 12. These kids find themselves roaming in the streets without any prospects of getting employed,” laments Vavi.
“We’re now demanding a single public education system that is free, compulsory and decolonised, that is going to give skills to our young people to enter the job market, confident that they can make a positive contribution to the growth of our economy.”
Vavi says South Africa’s education system needs to compete with other African counterparts who are poor and less-resourced but still produce better results.
“We demand change that the quality of our education be improved, that steps be taken to ensure that we can compete with our counterparts, in Zimbabwe, Botswana and our neighbouring countries who are much poorer and use far lesser resources than us, but producer far better quality of education for their children and their youth.”
Matric dropout numbers a huge concern
Meanwhile, the Department of Basic Education says it’s worried about the number of matric learners who’ve dropped out of school this year.
Just last month, the Department told Parliament that its projections are that over 52 000 learners in Grade 7 and over 23 000 matriculants would not return to class.
It emerged that about 18% of all Gauteng learners, from grades 1 to matric, have not gone back to school after several COVID-19 related disruptions to schooling.
But National Education spokesperson, Elijah Mhlanga, says some learners might have opted for homeschooling. Mhlanga says of bigger concern is the grade 12 learners who’ve absconded.
“Drop out rate is still a problem because we want all our learners back at school, but if there is no way of verifying why they are not coming back. It becomes difficult for us because we don’t want a drop-out rate, particularly at matric level. So, we hope as we finalise the numbers, we will get a good idea of how many of our learners have not returned to school especially our grade 12 learners.”
Gauteng Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi has expressed concern.
“That worries us big time, I must be honest. We’ve got almost 18% average across all grades of all learners that didn’t come back and that feel they can repeat. We are pushing it to have a national policy with the national minister to determine how we can assist them, but even during this hour, we want to urge parents, it’s not advisable to keep your children at home.”