While racial segregation has been disregarded for over 18 years now, schools which served mainly White students under apartheid remain functional, while those which served Black students remain dysfunctional and unable to convey the necessary numeracy and literacy skills learners should be obtaining. In this essay I will be discussing my understanding of the social inequalities that are evident in the south African schooling system, describe the unequal schooling systems that disadvantages the poor, black learners whilst privileging the rich and lastly discuss how these inequalities in education filters into social and economic inequality as well.
Forty years of apartheid had left deep inequalities in schooling. Among these, racial inequalities between urban and rural schools and between rich and the poor. Bantu education served the interests of white supremacy. It denied black people access to the same educational opportunities and resources enjoyed by white South Africans. Bantu education belittled black people’s history, culture, and identity. It promoted myths and racial stereotypes in its curricula and textbooks. Some of these ideas found expression in the notion of the existence of an isolated “Bantu society” and “Bantu economy” which were taught to African students in government-run schools. This so-called “Bantu culture” was presented in elementary and essentialized manner. African people and communities were shown as traditional, rural, and unchanging. Bantu education treated blacks as perpetual children in need of parental supervision by whites, which greatly limited the learners’ vision in the broader South African society (Hartshorne, 1990).
Bantu education schools suffered terribly from government’s neglect. Huge inequalities in funding between white and black schools and student-teacher ratios poorly affected the quality of education for black students. The Bantu Education Account of 1955 made matters worse by authorising that African education be funded by the general poll tax collected from Africans rather than from the General Revenue Account used to fund white education. Even after the separate account was abolished in 1972, education of African children remained grossly under-resourced, receiving one-tenth of the money afforded to whites and struggling with 56:1 student-teacher ratios (Hartshorne, 1990). Dilapidated school buildings, overcrowded classrooms, inadequate instruction, poor teacher training, and a lack of textbooks plagued African education. Students struggled to learn under such conditions. A racist educational system perpetuated South Africa’s social hierarchy in which skin colour was very closely correlated to class (Johnathan,1990).
According to Bloom, D., Canning, D. and Chan, K (2005); education is a tool, that leads to changes in both rural and urban communities. It creates environmental awareness and sustainability that people foster values such as; health care, human rights and cultural conservancy. They established that education increases; human capital, social values, self-esteem and capacity development. When the level of cultural understanding is high together with quality supply of highly skilled labour gained through better education, this can inspire development and as a result poverty reduction. Hence, education is a primary factor to achieve poverty alleviation in a society, if it is of quality and there is an environment to absorb these skills (Navaratnam, 1986).
The chance of lessening poverty, narrow life-threatening inequalities and improve public health is largely reliant on on the level of education within the population. Equalisation of prospects in education is one of the most important conditions to overcome social injustice and to reduce social inequalities in a country (UNESCO, 2009). An important relationship between education and poverty can be established through the labour market. Education is essentially linked to labour force participation. It has a positive relationship with the probability of employment. This implies, more educated people are more likely to partake in the labour market and get well-paid jobs available (Bhorat & McCord, 2003: 135)
Van der Berg et al (2011: 8) argued that, education plays a significant role in determining labour market outcomes. The probability of those who drop out of school or whose educational quality is low and most children from poor homes usually have less chances of obtaining well-paid and stable jobs. Generally, the most important income source for most households is wages. One of the main ways an individual can escape poverty is by obtaining a rewarding job and subsequently earns better wages. This shows the direct impact of education on poverty status. Increase in the wages of individuals, assumes that, education leads to knowledge that increases the productivity of workers. Poverty can extend itself through low quantity and quality of educational attainment, resulting in terrible labour market prospects, thus creating a vicious cycle which obstructs social mobility. Education, particularly if it is of excellent quality, helps alleviate poverty by increasing a poorer individual’s productivity, improves health, reduces fertility rates, and equips this individual with the right skills needed to fully participate in the economy and society, particularly the labour market (Abdulahi, 2008).
According to E, Shepherd D, Spaull N, Taylor S, van Broekhuizen H ; von Fintel D (2011). Thus, one can say that poor children in South Africa, who make up the majority, are starting behind and staying behind. This casts doubt on the ability of the South African schooling system to impart the knowledge, skills and values that learners need to become full members of society and to promote social mobility. Given the strong links between race, geography and poverty, this means that Black children in rural areas are especially disadvantaged and face few – if any – prospects for upward social mobility. Given that learners are falling further and further behind the curriculum, it is perhaps expected that many learners drop out in high school. As learners approach the outside matric examination it is no longer possible to be pushed into higher grades regardless of the knowledge and skills they have acquired. This leads to widespread drop-out in grades 10 and 11. Department of Basic Education (2003)
The main explanation behind the bimodality of the schooling system in South Africa is dual because, historically disadvantaged schools remain dysfunctional and unable to produce student learning, while historically advantaged schools remain functional and able to impart cognitive skills. The communities of these two school systems are vastly different with the historically Black schools still being racially same (for example, Black, despite the abolition of racial segregation) and largely poor; while the historically White and Indian schools serve a more racially diverse community, although almost all these students are from middle and upper-class backgrounds, irrespective of race. An important recent contribution by Yamauchi (2011) provides one explanation for this scenario. Using multiple data sources, he shows that the spatial segregation policies of apartheid have had lasting impacts on the inequality of opportunity to quality education. Black students usually live far from good schools (situated in expensive neighbourhoods), which make such schools geographically inaccessible, and those same schools usually charge higher school fees, which makes them financially inaccessible. Consequently, ex-Black schools have remained Black, while white schools have become more racially diverse, albeit with wealthier Black, Coloured and Indian students (Soudien, 2004).
Due to the stratified nature of South African society, parents who are in the top end of the labour market will send their children to good schools, while those in the bottom end of the labour market will send their children to the dysfunctional part of the education system; the very system that they came through decades earlier. This cycle of inequality perpetuates the current patterns of poverty and privilege. Importantly, it is not only student performance that is distributed in this dualistic way, but also various school level and home-background factors. the wealthiest quartile (25%) of students seem to attend vastly differing schools than the remaining three quartiles (75%). In top quartile school’s students are far more likely to have their own textbook, receive homework frequently, experience less teacher absenteeism, repeat fewer grades, live in urban areas, speak English more frequently at home, and have more educated parents All of these factors are likely to contribute to the better performance of this school sub-system. It is important to note that there is not a steady progression in any of these measures from quartiles one to three (as is the case in most other countries); the poorest three quartiles all have similar levels of grade repetition, teacher absenteeism, and textbook access. (Taylor,2011)
Equality and education are inseparably linked. Inequality in education plays a clear role in perpetuating social inequalities and socio-economic disadvantage, which themselves connect with patterns of historical discrimination against marginalised groups. The South African Bill of Rights is very imperative as it’s a tool to redress the imbalances of inequality in education and wider society, this can have been done or achieved through abiding by wider laws and legislations.
The Department of basic education could implement a national reading campaign that will help learners learn how to read and speak English fluently. Spaull (2015). Once the learner understands the language, it will be easy to grasp complicated concepts and master them. Secondly, increase teacher content knowledge and teaching skills. Chetty (2000) states that “under- preparedness of teachers will always impact on learner’s success.” The Department of basic education should create new, ground-breaking and operative teaching training programs that will prepare teachers from disadvantaged schools to beat the odds and produce learners that are capable enough to compete in the corporate world and obtain high productivity jobs and income. The department of education can also, conduct a countrywide audit of district officials and curriculum advisors. Spaull (2015). He further remarks that majority of subject specialists should be trained adequately so that they can assist teachers fully in following the curriculum and help them better improve the understanding of the content before presenting it to the learners. Can also create programs such as Ikamva Youth program which is a peer – to peer empowerment that will help learners catch up with what they have missed in the earlier grades. Spaull (2015). Dysfunctional schools can also create after school and weekend lessons to help learners who fall behind in class so that they are able to manage the upcoming classes and work. Lastly, invite nurses from clinics, NGOS to teach learners about the dangers of having unprotected sex which leads to teenage pregnancy and other transmittable diseases. The school could also help the learners benefit from these organizations visit because they will provide learners with knowledge of effective prevention methods because they can’t afford to buy them and as a result increase the population and re- producing another generation that will be trapped in the cycle of poverty because of lack or low educational attainment.
In conclusion, critical areas of life are dependent on the level of educational attainment, including individual skills, income level, socio-economic status, health and overall quality of life. Educational achievement has a very strong relationship to both proficiency in literacy and problem solving in technology, before and after accounting for the influence of other socio-demographic features. Level of education also directly influence individuals’ income and socio-economic status in later in life.