Education still a racial privilege 7

“Children may be better off leaving school and joining a gang”, says independent education specialist Graeme Bloch. That way they would be assured of some training, a lot of hard work, and a chance to earn a good income and respect in their communities. This comment may very well be the thinking of many jaded young people who have a little or no chance of getting into a university.

18 years and the prospect of getting into a higher learning institution for black students are still very low because of the quality of the basic education systems implemented in schools located in previously disadvantaged areas.  The quality of results from these schools means that students from these areas are not easily accepted into institutions of higher learning, which affects the rate at which the country can produce the scarce skills required to achieve our very ambitious economic development and transformation plans.

There is a racial skew in education, “where a white pupil has a 60 percent chance of going to university while a black pupil has a 12 to15 percent chance. That’s not sustainable and that’s not fair in a democracy where we’re supposed to be equal.” says independent education specialist Graeme Bloch.

Poverty eradication, employment creation and economic growth strategies all dependent on the availability of skills. South Africans need to realise that if we are to transform the prevalent economic disparity, proper basic education systems combined with non-radicalised access to education and skills development programmes is crucial in addressing economic inequalities.
Graeme Bloch who is known for his tongue in cheek comments is scheduled to speak at the 4th Annual BHP Billiton Skills Development Summit, taking place on the 25th and 26th July 2012.

The summit provides a platform where Government and Corporate South Africa can examine and through the Achiever Awards applaud the impact of  the various skills development strategies and programmes from the private and the public sector in addressing the legacy of educational, economic segregation and, indirectly, major skills shortages.

The summit endeavours to consider the extent to which new policies, institutions and delivery mechanisms are succeeding in building a new, inclusive high-quality skills development system, and highlight some of the successes and key weaknesses that still remain. Our key objective is to find lasting and effective solutions to the skills development challenges facing South Africa today but mostly to help business identify opportunities that lie ahead by unpacking the skills corporate SA needs to be focusing on in order to tap into the new economic and infrastructure development plans of the country.
For further information call Kekeletso Khena on +2721 681 7000 /
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7 thoughts on “Education still a racial privilege

  • Brian V Moore

    We really need to get away from this Black/ White way of talking in the country. A rural school will definitely be working more with “black” pupils. And they are disadvantaged.

    City based “former Model C schools” will have a wide range of students from all race, religious and cultural backgrounds. These youngsters are far more advantaged than others. To simply put this “statistic” into Black and White causes racial divides and anger.

  • Philip Wedge

    The title of the post , “Education still a racial privilege” is also regrettable. Sorry to be so blunt but I am not so sure that white families see it is a privilege to work a 40 hour week, spend their life savings on childrens education or even worse borrow/ mortgage money to pay for this education. Bloch is off the mark on this one. The education system is a diabolical mess in my opinion (again not blunt, sorry!), and starting now, not later, we need teachers to be sleek and shining examples of near perfection in the classrooms where they teach.

  • Andrew Rose

    I think one way of getting any PR around a topic (especially in training and education) is to pull the race card – which is being done here – again. I’ve got massive respect for Graeme Bloch, and try and track his work as best as I can (not as easy as Prof Jansen though). But I must admit to being a bit frustrated and feel a bit “short changed” on this latest piece. Not sure what he wants a reader to think here.

    This is a hymn sheet that Bloch has been singing from for many, many years now, at least 5 that I can think of. And if he and the DB of SA can’t do things beyond “workshops and PR pieces” in a time when the gap between adademic effectiveness and business skills is obviously getting worse, then I’m not sure what I’m meant to do.

    In my private capacity I’m a law abiding citizen that pays my taxes diligently, and I make a lot of sacrifice to keep my daughter out of public schools. Simply because they’re a mess and I can’t risk her future because various departments of education can’t get their act together on a number of issues, whether it’s OBE (which I thought had a lot of promise by the way), teacher salaries and unions, the development of new schools (in the West Rand, the fastest growing urban area in Africa, no public schools have been built in 10 years that I know of). Oh yes, I’m also a member of the school board and try my best to maximise the impact and effectiveness of my daughter’s school – in other words, I’m an active member of my community.

    In business, I put a lot of time into a student engineering competition that is quite successful at building bridges between academia and business – – So from my side, I’m good. Mr Bloch, from your side, maybe you need to start pushing some government buttons, but I don’t think the race card will work beyond getting more funds for the DB of SA.

    The stats supplied by Jacqui are excellent and much more worthwhile than pushing the “race button”. Thanks for sharing Jacqui ..!

    The more I think about the article, as well as what I’ve felt what I tried to share in my own response, the more I feel that I don’t appreciate what Bloch has said. It’s a bit of PR that goes no where, and isn’t going to change anything.
    Ok, time for me to get back to trying to get some more accounts.

    The Skills Summit does look interesting though, and I’ll definitely put that on my radar.

  • Chris Reay

    Low basic education standards of student stats disprove Bloch’s premise The repeated evidence of poor primary school teaching by government schools, the grip of the teachers unions, typically late book supply and lack of facilities, the policy adopted by the ANC Minister Bengu to retrench established institutional memory, adoption of OBE in a limited cognitive environment against all warnings, and the seemingly obvious agenda of the DoBE to stifle proven forms of basis learning would collectively be responsible for the current status across the whole population of students. The proportion of GDP that goes on education expenditure is the highest in Africa and many other countries.  Private education is however proving to work successfully where those that can choose to use their own mechanisms to educate their children do so. Until government delivers, most taxpayer funded services will continue to decline to the point where the citizen will actually take over and run their own affairs as happens with private education. I dispute the 60% chance a white student will get into UCT and a black one 15%. This has been skewed by permitting access to the university with a lower credit level for the black students in the medical faculty as an example, which virtually wipes out the white student’s chances even with full A ratings. So we now mess with the standards to compensate, believing we can adjust the laws of science for political reasons. Another summit, another talk show. How often do we need to keep airing what we already know, and do little to implement the obvious? Get basic numeracy and literacy teaching right for a start. This appears to be beyond either the ability or the will of the government to do. When the essential tools of skills development are missing, how is a summit going to find alternatives?

  • Narina Horn

    At this stage everyone is looking at what people and organisations other than the learners themselves are doing about the situation.  My question is, at what point do the learners accept that they also have to exercise discipline and put in an extra effort in order to obtain a good education?  I live in a small town in the Free State and I can state categorically that black learners go to white schools and have all the same opportunities.  And yet, when they pass matric, they still cannot communicate effectively in any language other than their own and their numeracy skills are shocking – in short, they are not employable except as manual labourers. How then can they expect to get into a university where they will be responsible for their own learning?  Classes will be in a second language, not their home language, books will be in a second language and so it goes on.

    To my mind a part of the problem is that learners expect things to be done for them and they just put in the minimum effort.  This goes for the parents as well – are parents as involved in their children’s education as they should be?

    I remember a time where my parents would have disciplined me harshly if my test and exam results were not good enough, if I came late for school or did not attend. In fact, I would not have dared to tell my mother that I was disciplined or beaten at school – she would have whipped my too because I must have done something wrong 🙂 During that period this slackness in schools would also not have been tolerated at all – the principal and teachers would have been taken to task by the community.

    My view is that this problem cannot be solved only from the outside – everyone should wake up – learners, parents, the community – and take action.  Waiting for someone else to solve the problem means doing nothing except complaining about the problem- a very common South African phenomenon.  As long as I can complain, I don’t have to do anything about it.

    Everyone has a right to an education, but with this right comes the responsibility of making the most of it for your own future, and this means that individual learners and their families are also responsible for ensuring a quality education.

  • Dr Jacqueline Baumgardt (Jax)

    I really beg to differ – stats are as follows

     Enrolments and Participation rates per Population Group















    287 137


    39 031


    36 828


    230 378



    595 963


    58 219


    54 537


    178 346


    % change







    – 23%


    Key E = Enrolments PR = Participation Rate

    (Source: adapted from Breier & Le Roux, 2012: n.p.; DHET, 2012: 38)

    It’s not a race thing – it’s because the tertiary institutions do not have capacity, in my view

    Extract from my thesis:

    “Post-1994, transformation of the education system was high on the political agenda.  The cornerstones of higher education policy formulated in the mid-1990s in South Africa were equity, efficiency, responsiveness and co-operative governance (Fehnel, 2006: 238).  The policy of equity gave rise to massive shifts in the student populations of all the universities and technikons as open access to all higher education institutions for all race groups became a reality.  However, this was more a case of “fish changing streams” where students who would have attended a “traditionally black” institution now enrolled at a “traditionally white” institution, and there was what is called the “white flight” (Cloete, 2006: 417) or disengagement (Mandew, 2003: 74) as white students, for various reasons, left public higher education by the thousands – according to Breier and le Roux (2012: n.p.) there was a 22% decline in “white” student numbers from 1994 – 2009 (a reduction of approximately 52 000 students). The CHE (2009: 20) notes a worrying trend in the decreasing numbers of white students enrolling at public tertiary institutions. It is unclear where they have gone to – according to Mandew (2003: 74) there has been much uncorroborated speculation as to the reasons or motives for this disengagement. It has been described as “crowding out”, or “the inevitable minoritisation of previously artificial majorities” (ibid.). Fiske and Ladd (2005: 211) state that “No one seems to have a firm fix on the causes of this white flight. Various theories hold that white students who in the past would have enrolled in higher education either entered the work force, left the country, or enrolled in the growing private higher education sector”.

    However, the participation rate is still unequal: for white students it is 54%, for Indian students it is 43% (CHE, 2009: 19), while for African and Coloured students, it sits at 13% according to the National Planning Commission (2011: 274). The participation rate is calculated by “dividing total enrolments by the total population aged between 20 and 24 and expressing this fraction as a percentage” (Breier & Le Roux, 2012: n.p.).  It should not be confused with “head count enrolments”.  In other words, 54% of white students take advantage of higher education opportunities, while only 13% of African and Coloured students do.” 

    Funding is also not an issue because students can access funding from NSFAS. 

    The problem lies far more with the skill of the student with high drop out rates, failure rates, etc – and that MUST be placed squarely at the door of the DoBE.