I remember clearly the dreams and aspirations of every young person that was in my league back then: Pass Advanced Level with flying colors, get admitted to the University of Zimbabwe, acquire a degree and the whole world would open up for a new graduate! And I guess it was the same for each one of us all over the African continent; go to Makerere University, University of Lagos, or Fort Hare, Eduardo Mondlane University or Kenyatta University and University of Khartoum. It was an aspiration that we cherished and kept deep inside our hearts to spur us on, even in seemingly hopeless situations. But, alas! For many of us, it remained just that: a dream.
That was so because Africa’s education was, and continues to be, riddled with problems that make it excessively difficult to excel academically. Overcrowded classrooms, compound and multi-grade classes, under-resourced schools, under-skilled and even unskilled educators are amongst the plethora of our challenges. These are not only endemic to Sub-Saharan Africa, but cuts across the breath and length of our continent, perhaps with a few variations, but none-the-less threatening the very essence of hope; a hope of taking Africa out of the vices of poverty and towards a sound education.
But we refuse to throw the baby away with the proverbial bath water! As Africa commemorates its oneness and consolidates its commitment to seeing a better future for its children, nations continue to engage and seek solutions to our problems. We refuse to see failure but choose to envision solutions to our challenges. We refuse to continue the blame-game and mere-talk of the legacies of apartheid and colonisation but opt to be proactive in redressing our inheritance.
A lot of African countries have taken the initiative in rectifying this situation and South Africa is no exception. In fact, by many comparative standards, it can easily be the vanguard of the educational revolution in Africa. Not only do the leaders, both political and industrial, emphasise the crucial role of education but they go on to back the rhetoric by availing vast resources and implementing avant-garde programmes and projects to prove their seriousness. Education in South Africa continues to enjoy the biggest allocation of the national budget each year, proof of the sincerity with which the desire of educating the nation and the continent is proposed.
Then there are the various educational programmes that seek to complement the efforts of the teachers, learners and government. The Gauteng Primary Literacy and Mathematics Strategy (GPLMS) comes to mind as one of the most ambitious projects ever to be implemented. With a mandate to coach and support teachers in schools, in English and Mathematics, right from Grade 1 through to 7, GPLMS has swept Gauteng by storm. But shhhhh! It maybe a bit too early to blow the horn, but the outlook is good and perhaps that elusive dream of yonder can become alive to the young ones of Africa! The future looks bright, very bright. Maybe Wits and Stellenbosch, Tukkies and Alexandria, Nairobi and London, Oxford and Massachusetts are not far-fetched dreams after all. Africa roars with possibility again!