Education is the most powerful weapon without which the youth of Africa can hardly make any progress in life for themselves and for their Continent. African governments must invest heavily in education if Africa is to fight unemployment successfully and avoid dependence on foreign skills forever. Dependence compromises national independence and sovereignty. There can be no creation of one million jobs without education and training, for one million skills.
University students who recently boycotted classes just before they were due to write their examinations for this year must be congratulated and encouraged. They have brought to the surface a subject which like equitable distribution of land and resources has not been treated with the seriousness it deserves.
No national development can occur without human development. Knowledge is power. Knowledge liberates a people. In Azania (South Africa) where Africans were subjected to barbaric systems of education such as “Bantu education”, this nation must move faster towards an education system tailored to its needs and diversified to meet this country’s varied needs.
The world is becoming a tough competitive global village. Those who have knowledge will get all the riches out of this village. Those without knowledge and skills will continue to collect only crumbs in this village. To limit the acquisition of knowledge to the rich is national suicide and incubation of a revolution. “Prevention is better than cure,” the wise long advised.
It is critical that like a well-trained army assured of victory in a ferocious war; our youth is equipped with quality education and skills that capacitate them to serve in any sphere of life competently. The global village does not accommodate dangerous theories such as “pass one, pass all.”
Of course, education is not a matter of status and academic arrogance. Education is for service. Knowledge determines the place of a nation in the world – whether it will be at the top or at the bottom. Some nations are already exploring life on the moon. How will Africa advance in every field of knowledge if it neglects its youth educationally? Africa is sitting on all kinds of riches but it is poorest in the world because we are not taking the acquisition of knowledge seriously.
We have uranium, but we have no nuclear technology for advanced medical purposes, alternative sources of energy in this era of electricity crisis the ‘new’ South Africa etc. Others are technologically advanced today in the “global village” because they buy Africa’s raw materials, process them and sell them back to Africa at 2000% profit. Any wonder Africans on this continent continue to wallow in the quagmire of abject poverty and backwardness educationally? A nation that exports its raw materials unprocessed shall be a perpetual pauper forever. This country must aim for economic independence. That will not happen if Africa’s children are not provided with knowledge that develops their country in all fields of life.
The ‘new’ South Africa is supposedly a “unitary state.” But it has the features of a federation and federations are expensive to run. Let me repeat what I said in the South African Parliament on 27 January 2009. This was in response to the President’s State of the Nation:
“Mr. President, Education must be free for the poor. The few schools that have been declared, ‘No Fee Schools’ are not the same thing as free education. It is technological-economic power that determines the places of nations in the world….Billions of Rand that are spent on nine Provincial Parliaments must be invested in an education that skills this nation in all fields of knowledge and gives it the technological capacity to process our raw materials and to export them as finished goods. We are throwing away our riches by exporting our raw materials unprocessed and buying them back as finished goods from Europe, America and elsewhere.”
The University students have also added their voice to the unresolved land question and its equitable resources. In Parliament on the same date, I further said:
“Mr. President, Our ancestors had no university degrees, but they wisely identified land as the most fundamental national asset for their nationhood and primary source of their wealth and development. Poverty in this nation will not go away for the African majority until we do the right thing. Identify land as the basic asset of the nation…. Section 25(7) of the Constitution must be amended.”
Students will not be convinced that free education is impossible when they see corruption and self-enrichment of many leaders of the ANC. A report in the STAR newspaper of 17 October 2015 is not good news for the students and this nation, if it is true. It reads:
“Vice-President Kgalema Motlanthe and his partner enjoyed a R2 million holiday in Seychelles at tax payers’ expense. Subsequently, President Jacob Zuma enjoyed a R1.6 million holiday on Bazaruto Island for which the public had to pay.” The STAR further reported, “Government argued that the Presidential handbook allowed for these expenses.”
The truth remains. Free education is the road to self-reliance for students from poor homes and for the nation as a whole.
By Dr. Motsoko Pheko
The writer is a former Member of the South African Parliament.