It was back to school this Wednesday to herald the beginning of the 2008 school calendar against the backdrop of not-so-inspiring Grade 10 and 12 examination results.
As has become the ritual at the beginning of each year, the chorus for indabas to discuss the results and thereafter do what about them only the devil knows, have started. I am not aware of any such indaba ever coming up with any tangible results carried through to bear fruit at the end of the year in terms of improved examination results. Hence the rituality of the indabas.
Usually, the sugar-coated recommendations and resolutions coming out of these indabas are not long-lived and are soon forgotten by their prime movers rendering these indabas no more that mere shame-saving cushions.
That is because we take such indabas as halfhearted efforts lest we are accused of not caring about the education of our children and to deflect the shamefulness of the examination results. Before the ink with which such resolutions are usually written has dried, the resolutions are forgotten and the results relegated to the back of our minds.
Meantime, the subjects of the examination results, assuming the new identity of school dropouts, are left to the viciousness and cruelty of the system in its habitual way of rotting them in the streets and its other contaminating agents. In this manner, the ranks of the forces of decay are swelled, rendered more powerful and the reverse gear decaying the fabric of our society and communities accelerated.
That is why one is inclined to think little of the calls for fora to discuss the results and likening them to empty shells and nothing more than comic and gimmickry concerns. Not that society should not be concerned about the deteriorating Grade 10 and 12 results year-in and year-out.
But such concern if any previous show of concern is something to learn anything from, it has hitherto proven flippant and of little consequence despite the indabas. Strange enough our concern has so far been ad hoc, reactive rather and an abdication of our responsibility in the education of our children.
A matter relegated to the first few days of the year and then catapulted to other planets for a whole year only to be wrestled from those planets at the end/beginning of the year with the odious results. Sustained efforts in this regard, save for those immediately and daily involved by virtue of this being their source of living for most of them, is glaringly lacking. That is why indabas that are often sparked by bad year-end examination results have been of little effect. If such indabas are to be of any constructive usefulness in improving performance in our schools, then the aim should be for all and sundry to be abreast of what is happening in our schools week in and week out if not day in and day out rather than waiting until the end of the year when it is often late and there is little if anything that we can do about the results.
Despite the starkness of the results at the end of every year, we seem to learn little from the lessons year after year only to pretend surprise at the end/beginning of every year. I wonder whether we will ever be able to fully confront the problem, root and all?
The examination results are only symptoms of the chronic ill within our education system. This ill cannot be addressed by a one-off cosmetic indaba at the beginning of the year while the failure heat is on. Such efforts based on these indabas must lay a foundation for consistent and sustained efforts throughout the year to monitor performance in our schools, and to provide the necessary backup to the school operators in the pursuance of improved results in our schools.
I believe that as long as parents and the broader society remains for the better part of the school calendar only passive onlookers, only prepared to bring the bare minimum towards the education of our children, better results in our schools would forever remain a pipedream.
I shall always maintain that the products in the form of our children that deliver to our schools are strictly for further value addition. This, needless to say, means they must somehow have inherent value nurtured at the home level. I am not only talking about academic value but an aggregate of values that include scholarly disposition and even character.
Given these values nurtured in our homes I trust schools would near to easy tasks in preparing the leaders of tomorrow. The next responsible unit after the home is of course the society. Until and when the home factor and the society at large realises its responsibility and role in the education of our children, it is unfair to expect the schools environment to accomplish this task single-handedly as currently seems the expectation.
I look forward to the day when any such indaba would make a difference at the end of the year in terms of improved results.
We must be careful lest such fora become fashionable.