From subject to citizen
By Dr Mamphela Ramphele
South Africa’s democracy is 18 years old. Yet the “rainbow nation” ushered in by President Nelson Mandela has reached maturity in a profoundly conflicted state.
Despite a world-class constitution and great strides in providing basic services to the underserved majority, the justice, education and health systems remain under huge strain – contributing to massive burdens of violent crime, unemployment and disease, and to inequality levels that are amongst the highest in the world.
Governance of a modern democracy requires informed and confident citizens who can hold their government accountable and contribute meaningfully to sustainable development of the common wealth and social capital of the nation. High quality education that expands citizens’ horizons and unleashes initiative and drive is an essential base for sustainable development. Education is the great leveller that enables children living in poor communities to climb out of the trap of poverty and become positive agents of change within their own communities.
Here are some stats to remind us of what we are facing:
- The government education budget has doubled in the past 18 years
- At the same time, South Africa has plummeted in terms of “Quality of primary education” to 131 out of 142 countries in the World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness Report.
- South Africa’s unemployment level has been hovering close to 40% for the past decade
- 42% of the 18 to 24 age group and 51% of 23 and 24 age groups are not employed or in education and training. This group grows by 500,000 per year.
We need to create national campaigns to mobilise collective action. We need to coalesce, galvanise, amplify and showcase the successful efforts of civil society groups, the private sector and government.
We need to celebrate and learn together from the work of the LEAP Science and Maths Schools.
LEAP has set a good example of how to scale up interventions – it now has six schools across the country. From this platform, in collaboration with others, has sprung the convening and leveraging innovation agency of Bridge. Bridge works hard to bring the work of the many small successful NPOs and education initiatives and projects into alignment and to create connected frameworks in which the whole inevitably must become greater than the sum of the parts.
Let’s confront the legacy of woundedness in South Africa together. We have developed a comprehensive vision for building the muscles to galvanise citizen engagement in education. Keep doing what you are doing to be an active part of this vision. Let’s walk together to do whatever it takes to ensure that all children have access to quality education.