WHY COLOUR STILL MAT­TERS

Most black chil­dren go to in­fe­rior schools and will never im­prove their lot, while their white con­tem­po­raries are handed the ba­ton by their par­ents

CityPress - - Front Page - SIPHO MASONDO sipho.masondo@city­press.co.za

Twenty-two years into the demo­cratic era, whether you are born black in Alexan­dra or white in Sand­ton re­mains an ac­cu­rate pre­dic­tor of fu­ture suc­cess or fail­ure, say ex­perts. Frans Cronje, chief ex­ec­u­tive of the SA In­sti­tute of Race Re­la­tions, cau­tions against stereo­types. But he says re­search is of­ten able to fore­cast what chil­dren’s lives will be like by the time they are in grades 2 or 3.

“As a black kid born in a ru­ral or town­ship set­ting, chances are you will go into a for­mer black, Bantu ed­u­ca­tion school. And that pretty much tells us what your fu­ture will be like. Most black kids are ex­posed to use­less ed­u­ca­tion and their prospects are stunted,” Cronje says.

Ev­i­dence shows that town­ship chil­dren are not likely to pass ma­tric and pro­ceed to univer­sity. They will not get to work and im­prove their lot in life.

This is the com­plete op­po­site most of the time for the prospects of their white coun­ter­parts. “As a young white kid, you will have a good school, pass ma­tric, go to univer­sity, even­tu­ally get a qual­i­fi­ca­tion and get to work,” he says.

How­ever, Cronje warns that this is not al­ways the case. Many black chil­dren born in the post-apartheid era now have greater ac­cess to op­por­tu­ni­ties and are much bet­ter off than their par­ents.

Statis­ti­cian-Gen­eral Pali Le­hohla points to the coun­try’s spa­tial plan­ning and de­vel­op­ment pro­gramme, say­ing it is not driving change fast enough, but is in­stead re­in­forc­ing apartheid’s ideals. He says one gen­er­a­tion pre­de­ter­mines the next gen­er­a­tion’s lot in life.

“When you are bound by your cir­cum­stances, you will re­pro­duce the same. Where you are born is where you will end.”

Cronje’s anal­y­sis lends cre­dence to re­search find­ings re­leased re­cently by the Univer­sity of Stel­len­bosch. It finds that by the time many black pupils reach Grade 3, they have ac­quired mas­sive learn­ing de­fi­cien­cies that are al­most im­pos­si­ble to re­verse.

The two re­search re­ports con­cur with the suc­ces­sive An­nual Na­tional Assess­ment re­ports. Re­leased early last year by the de­part­ment of ba­sic ed­u­ca­tion, it finds that Grade 6 black pupils strug­gle to solve ba­sic arith­metic prob­lems and fail to con­struct sim­ple sen­tences in English.

More­over, the de­part­ment’s statis­tics show that more than half of all black pupils who start Grade 1 don’t make it to ma­tric.

“Spa­tial plan­ning is cru­cial for driving change,” says Le­hohla. “Most towns and town­ships in this coun­try were not de­signed to have peo­ple work there and stay there.

“But the is­sue is that most kids in those com­mu­ni­ties where there is no work are not likely to suc­ceed in life.”

While many black peo­ple have man­aged to drag them­selves out of poverty, he says it is be­cause of the com­bi­na­tion of ex­treme hard work and luck, and def­i­nitely not the re­sult of pol­icy or of their abil­i­ties.

Pro­fes­sor Ivan Turok, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Eco­nomic Per­for­mance and De­vel­op­ment Unit at the Hu­man Sci­ence Re­search Coun­cil, says that, sort of like a re­lay race, chil­dren are handed the ba­ton by their par­ents.

“If you are a white kid, the ba­ton opens up all sorts of doors, like good ed­u­ca­tion, so­cial net­works, and a se­cure fam­ily en­vi­ron­ment. These are the pass­ports to a mid­dle class life­style and suc­cess. But if you come from a work­ing class fam­ily, it is very tough. There are sys­temic bar­ri­ers to progress,” says Turok.

These bar­ri­ers in­clude lack of proper houses, no ac­cess to the labour mar­ket, bad ed­u­ca­tion and no so­cial net­works – all of which re­in­force in­equal­i­ties.

“If you grow up in a town­ship, the like­li­hood is that you lack soft skills like per­suad­ing peo­ple to em­ploy you or to give you a busi­ness. You don’t have so­cial eti­quette, don’t know how to shake hands or dress be­cause you were not ex­posed to these cus­toms.”

All these are hur­dles for the work­ing class, he says, and un­less some­thing ex­cep­tional hap­pens in our so­ci­eties, “where you are born and which race you are born into” re­main strong de­ter­mi­nants of fu­ture suc­cess or fail­ure for many African chil­dren.

PHO­TOS: FACE­BOOK AND IN­STA­GRAM

JUST UP YOUR STREET A grad­u­ate stands on a street cor­ner beg­ging for work HOPE AGAINST HOPE A young woman asks to be given a chance to prac­tise what she has stud­ied

PHOTO: LUBABALO NGCUKANA

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