By: Christine Petré
As President Jacob Zuma’s State of the Nation address is scheduled on Thursday the expectations are low. The opposition political parties and analysts do not have much hope for groundbreaking news. The speech, which is delivered in the year that celebrates ANC’s 100th anniversary and in the year of the internal election of ANC, is by some even argued to be in front of deaf ears as some have difficulty taking the words of the President serious due to the uncertainty of his future.
At the same time fresh reports in Mail & Guardian reveal that 70% of the country’s public schools are still without workbooks due to a “patchy” delivery process, leaving some schools with neither workbooks nor textbooks. Other schools have received an insufficient number of books, leaving them incapable of using them since you cannot provide some students and leave others out. However, the “patchy” delivery process is nothing new, it also occurred last year and teachers are now worried it might affect the annual national assessment again this year. The department has admitted the delay, which is now halting the school start and affecting the already poorly equipped and managed public schools.
The education system in South Africa is heavily screwed between public and private schools, the public schools lack equipment, teachers and are over crowded with pupils while the private schools are small classes of high quality, but very expensive. The current education system is dividing the already divided South African people between rich and poor, benefitting the already rich and heavily burdening the poor.
Thus, imagine listening to Zuma’s State of the Nation speech addressing the importance of education in the same fashion as Tony Blair did a few years back when declaring his country’s priorities as “Education, education, education”.
However, this is very unlikely. Zuma is self-taught and unlike Thabo Mbeki who, together with Nelson Mandela, symbolised academic excellence, Zuma is instead undermining the importance of education, symbolising the pointlessness of education.
Therefore the speech is likely to be talk without substance and mildness rather than boldness, however, until Thursday we can envision how great it would be to listen to the South African president addressing the importance of education.