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Education: a tool for empowerment or a recognizance rally?

By Sifiso Ngobeni

The importance of education is something that has been drilled into our minds from an early age. For many poor and disadvantaged families, it is seemingly the only way to get anywhere and become successful. The globe is full of successful people who many would say aren’t formally educated, but are successful- like our President Jacob Zuma. So how important is education really in determining the outcome of our futures?

“Education either functions as an instrument which is used to facilitate integration of the younger generation into the logic of the present system and bring about conformity or it becomes the practice of freedom, the means by which men and women deal critically and creatively with reality and discover how to participate in the transformation of their world.” –Paulo Freire

Our educational system is continuously graduating a generation of functional illiterates by dropping school standards just for the progression of the student. This not only affects the societies that we live in, but also the country as whole. Education is supposed to equip us with not only the knowledge but also to power to solve the problems within our societies. It teaches us to make sense of issues that affect us without giving us the power to solve or change them. Every country has economists, these are people who have been ‘educated’ in the field of economics but they still fail to solve our economic issues.

Education has become what we learn throughout life, not in a classroom. Whether we would like to admit it or not we learn more from the people at school than we do in class. The educational system has become a competition of memory as a lot of what we acquire in school is irrelevant in our lives and daily struggles. It (the educational system) also promotes a detrimental idea of intelligence and how it is measured by how well you do within the system. It does not cater to the intellectual needs of all people; those that fail to progress in schools usually feel like they are dumb or slow.

Although there are alternative schools of art, the financial means to attend those prestigious schools are unattainable for a majority of South Africans. This means that because of inequality, along with the imperfect educational system- young people are without an education and ultimately without employment.

Many young people in South Africa have obtained a higher education degree and still find looking for and attaining employment to be a big hurdle. Statistics suggests that there are nearly 60 000 unemployed graduates. Our education system does not equipt us with the necessary skills to enable us to enter the workplace successfully. We find ourselfs with a degree and trapped in the ‘work-experience cycle'( i.e to get a job you need work experience, in order to get work experience you need a job ).

Our current educational system needs reform through the promotion of diverse and creative thinking. The focus should not be on ‘the right way/ the right answer’ but rather on ways to teach people how to use knowledge to make it relevant  in their lives. Only when education empowers us, will society develop

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