The Congress of South African Students (COSAS) has demanded (among other things) that the private sector be held accountable for the education of South Africans. In a national press conference last week, the organisation said it would challenge big business to meet these demands. The Daily Vox asked people what they think about the state of education in the country and what role of big business should play.
Taheera Bradley, 22, student
I recently read that the department of basic education (DBE) is not going to make math a compulsory subject to pass, and for me that was just such a shocker. I don’t actually know what’s going on anymore because that’s just decreasing our levels of education. I’m in my own state of panic for the country and its education system right now. We need teachers who are serious about their jobs and we also need to pay them better. Once we start paying teachers better more people would be interested in becoming a teacher. We don’t have enough teachers in this country. Teaching has got to be something you’re actually passionate about because you’re working with people, and you become a fundamental part of their lives. Schoolchildren use what teachers teach them to make decisions in their adult lives.
COSAS was formed in 1979, following the Soweto uprisings. It’s roots lie in the black consciousness movement and it has historically supported the ANC and its policies. Earlier this year, COSAS joined the MK vets patrolling Luthuli House during anti-Zuma marches following the president’s controversial cabinet reshuffles.
Xolani Mpungose, 27, construction worker
Our education system is very poor, I won’t lie. Last time I checked, it was rated somewhere right at the bottom. It’s not okay. COSAS want big business to invest more in education? It’s all politics, that’s all I can say. They’re also gaining something by asking big business to invest. I think primary and secondary education should be free. Learners shouldn’t have to pay school fees. Maybe if they want to go to varsity, that’s when they can start to pay. The difference is that our family backgrounds are not the same. Maybe they should create some system that can benefit both parties.
COSAS has demanded that the private sector should be held accountable for the South African education system. It also demanded free school uniforms, safety and security on school property and a feeding scheme.
Eugenia Qonde, 55, mother
There are so many schools for white people and not enough schools for black people. Blacks who go to white schools change themselves. They think because they are in white schools they are better than others. Kids from locations can’t find jobs because they didn’t go to white schools. Schools in the locations are not good enough. Why doesn’t the government provide for these schools? I wouldn’t change how the education system does things, I just think government must provide for schools in the location. The schools need to be equal. It’s a good idea for big business to fund our education, but they must also train learners to give them work experience. When learners finish school, they must have an opportunity to build their lives and be proud of who they are.
COSAS continues to raise concerns about “the dual education system of the private and public schools whereby children of the poor get poor quality public education and the children of the rich get quality private education”.
Rumaanah Jeenah, 20, student (left)
The funding of our education system is not used very well because of the whole corruption problem and things are just misappropriated. I don’t think the issue is with private schools, but with public schools mostly. The focus seems to be on specific subjects and a very small array of them especially in schools that have less funding. I also think the issue is with the teachers themselves – it doesn’t help if you have teachers that can’t teach. I think big business investment could be helpful particularly for underprivileged students. If businesses are to fund particular students’ education so that they can pay for their primary, secondary and tertiary education at least they can help someone out that really needs it. That makes a difference.
In an apparent reference to #FeesMustFall, COSAS national secretary general Khulekani Skosana said on Friday that the organisation had been demanding free education since before the hashtags. He told reporters: “The private sector must fund free education or leave.”
Sanam Moothiram, 20, student (right)
The education system has come a long way but there’s still some work to be done. It could be more well-rounded. But we have the idea that the education system is generally flawed throughout the world. I went to a public school but I didn’t feel like I was deprived in any way of facilities or anything. If I could change anything about the education system, I think I would add more variety of subjects so that children of different skill sets have a chance to be successful. Big business should definitely be investing more in our education system.
COSAS says it will occupy all centres of economic power to push for funding for education. The organisation say it will occupy the Johannesburg Stock Exchange on 31 July. This is not a new demand. Cosas also marched to the JSE last year and has previously demanded that JSE-listed companies raise R1-billion for poor schools.
Voxes have been edited for clarity and brevity.