Interview: Kgosi Leruo Molotlegi
What is the best way to tackle educational inequality in rural areas?
KGOSI LERUO MOLOTLEGI: A certain amount of the educational inequality in South Africa can be attributed to the history of policies under apartheid. However, much of it can also be attributed to poverty and marginalisation, which leads to the parents and school governing bodies (SGBs) in rural areas not understanding their rights and responsibilities under the constitution as they apply to education. In the Royal Bafokeng Nation, we have exercised our rights under section 14 of the Education Act, which allows the community, as a private landowner, to play a more prominent role in the governance of our schools. Because educational quality depends greatly on the management of the schools – especially with regard to the appointment of the principal and teachers – nominating strong leaders to serve on our SGBs is an important response to many of the problems we face in our schools today.
How can education be progressive while at the same time promote traditional values?
MOLOTLEGI: There is nothing contradictory about traditional values and progressive education. In fact, I argue that the most progressive education is values-based, and that there are many laudable values to be found in our traditions. If you think about proverbs and certain rituals that promote respect, self-discipline and communal responsibility for the environment, it is clear that we should be bringing these elements of our heritage into our modern education more strongly. Our context may be increasingly global, and our challenges and desires may be influenced by international, especially Western, trends, but that should not stop us from preserving, living and celebrating our heritage.
Many of us have discarded the wisdom embedded in our traditions and cultural practices. For some reason, we believe that to be taken seriously as professionals, we must let go of the old-fashioned ways of our grandparents and adopt the styles and practices of those in positions of power and influence. I wish to categorically state that there is nothing to be gained by a wholesale abandonment of our heritage in the interest of succeeding in the contemporary world. Our visions and plans for a sustainable and prosperous future, characterised by excellence and world-class standards, lose nothing, and in fact gain much, by reflecting on who we are and what path we took to get here. We must take every opportunity to learn as much as we can about our forbearers, what they believed, how they organised society and what they valued.
What are the most pressing reforms needed in the public education system?
MOLOTLEGI: Some areas we are working on are early childhood education, personal leadership, and technical and vocational training. We believe children ages three to five need learning environments that maximise their physical and cognitive potential in these formative years. Children move through many developmental milestones at this time, and the better their stimulation, the more they learn and grow.
I also strongly believe that all learners need to cultivate an attitude of personal leadership embedded with respect for themselves, their peers, surroundings and the needs of those beyond their immediate experience. Preparing young people for economically active lives requires much more than offering them the chance to learn a skill. It can require an entire mindset shift in which they take greater responsibility for themselves and their communities, embrace openness, and develop an attitude of determination, patience and persistence. Without such skills, young people are not able to effectively grasp the opportunities available to them.
South Africa can be a global innovation hub, home to cutting-edge professionals conceiving new solutions to the world’s most pressing challenges. To achieve this, we need to expand and improve the teaching of design technology, creative writing, maths and engineering in order to produce the innovators of the future.
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