As a young South African educator, I believe in the sentiment that knowledge is power. In order to activate that power, new approaches to education, teaching and learning need to be tapped into as we harness the current academic disciplines. This is by no means an attempt to discredit the current education system. Instead, it is an appeal for us to work together as teachers and learners to enhance it, to develop it, and to plant the seeds that will bear fruits for the generations to come.
Our children learn Shakespearean poetry, but who teaches them how to have difficult conversations? History teaches them about Thomas Edison, but who teaches them how to change a lightbulb? Business Studies may produce entrepreneurs, no doubt, but who teaches them how to maintain financial freedom and endure the tough economic climate? Life Orientation may encourage good decisions, but who teaches them how to overcome insecurities?
We teach them about matter, but not enough of what actually matters in their current context.
Our learners work hard, yet we are failing them every day. They strive to produce the best results, yet they are not learning. Architects with broken homes. Heart surgeons with broken hearts. Pharmacists battling depression.
Life as we know it is not just about obtaining a Cum Laude on paper; it is about building relationships and exercising the training one has learned. It is about creating and maintaining a healthy lifestyle for oneself and others. It’s about being able to take accountability for your actions, and learning how to overcome past trauma so that your future is not compromised. Any adult will agree that life often throws curve balls at us. As a teacher, I feel that if we are unable to teach our learners how to prepare for these curve balls, and navigate through them, then what are we really doing?
I propose that new topics be added to our school curriculum. We need to develop our learners’ soft life skills, and guide and prepare them for the realities of everyday life after school. We need to consider the development of a curriculum that actively provides knowledge about mental health, financial independence, overcoming adversity, medical aid, tax, insurance and basic law, to name a few. This is a call to all teachers. I urge you to reflect on your teaching methodology. This is a call to our educational policymakers. Let us revolutionise the meaning of education.
I always felt perturbed by the traditional schooling system. How do we expect our learners to reach a level of self-actualisation when we teach the typical curriculum, without adequate reflection and critique, day in and day out? As educators, we are meant to serve them, yet we are causing the greatest disservice of all by not exposing learners to the realities of the world.
Teachers have such a vital role in society; it is often a role that comes with little praise and compensation. Teachers have the ability to contribute to significant shifts in our country. However, the burden we carry in playing multiple roles such as the parent, social worker, administrator, therapist, coach and much more, often leaves one demotivated. I have seen many young teachers leave the profession as a result of school leaders breeding a culture that does not listen to new ideas and encourage active transformation. Teachers who want to make a difference in the lives of the youth of this country are, as a result, limited in their ability to create maximum impact. These teachers have their light dimmed to conform to a broken system, selling broken dreams.
Learners continue to bear the brunt of this broken system. It is their lives that are directly impacted, and their time that cannot be returned. It is my hope that this discussion on education transformation features strongly with the youth of today, as we collectively begin to determine a new way forward as a country.
As the historic June 16 approaches, we need to reflect on the conviction behind the Soweto Uprising — where hundreds of young people took to the streets to demand systemic change, in which many lives were lost and countless others were injured and scarred for the rest of their lives. In respect of this course, the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation will be hosting its inaugural Youth Day Parade for Justice and Change.
The parade will begin from Loftus Versfeld Stadium to the Union Buildings. A collective of over 93 organisations in a unified voice are calling for young people in South Africa to work together to ensure that we can carry the baton forward from the leaders of the past, in the hope that inspires new generations to continue this urgent and necessary transformation agenda.
I appeal to our youth to share their ideas and let us hear your voices once again. The youth before us have fought for a liberatory education. They fought for us to be empowered through our knowledge. To commemorate this, and to take these ideas forward, let us work together as teachers and students. Let us learn from each other, put our heads together, and develop a curriculum that is truly transformative. I urge you to join this call, be part of this progressive collective call to action, show up, and tell us what you need to change.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policies of The Daily Vox.
Sarah Hassain is an educator who is passionate about holistic youth development. She is currently completing a Master’s Degree in Educational Leadership and Management at the University of Johannesburg, with a focus on Policy Development.