Hear our plea – Children write to Education Minister

Dear minister‚ please reduce my school fees so my mom would stop crying.

Grade 4 pupil‚ Thabiso Hlongwane‚ wrote to Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga as part of Universal Children’s Day initiative – coordinated by non-profit community development organisation‚ Cotlands and the United Nation Children’s Fund (UNICEF) – in which schoolchildren gave suggestions to her on what should be done differently in their schools.

Like most children who wrote to Motshekga‚ Thabiso spoke of his family’s plight to pay for his schooling as part of the UN initiative commemorated on November 20.

“I love my school and enjoy playing with my friends and will like the minister to help my school with books so that my mom can be okay because my father is not working and my friend’s father is also not working. I would like money for school fees to be half because my mom is always crying.”

Cotlands chief executive Monica Stach said the letters were an attempt to alert Motshekga to what children in South African schools regard as important.

The latest annual UNESCO Global Education Monitoring Report found that despite the UN Sustainable Development Goal 4‚ calling for 12 years free education for all‚ only 45% of South African adolescents complete upper secondary education. About 94% of children complete primary education‚ and 83% complete lower secondary.

The report states that the quality of education in South Africa is suffering as only 34% of students achieve at least a minimum proficiency level in mathematics at the end of lower secondary education; 19% of schools have found that poor heating/cooling systems hindered learning‚ and 23% found that limited instructional space hindered learning.

The report’s spokesperson Kate Redman said Thabiso picked up on one of the research’s core findings.

‘We found that countries making the greatest progress towards universal primary and secondary education were those that provided free education – and by that we mean really free‚ including books and other costs related with school.”

“This is because‚ especially in lower income countries‚ households are picking up a larger proportion of the bill of education. We support the child’s call‚ and add to it‚ emphasising the need to prioritise education in the national budget so that money is never a barrier for the poorest to access school.”

She said the report showed that children and youth play a part in improving education.

“This was seen in action with the #Feesmustfall protests‚ of course‚ and is something we will be promoting from the December 8 with a new report emphasising young people’s vital role holding governments to account for quality‚ equitable education the world over.”

Stach said society often disregards children’s voices.

“All children’s voices across the world must be heard by adults who share the child’s life space‚ because children are rights bearers. Society disregards the voice of children and we plan on behalf of children‚ do to them instead of listening to what they say they need. The younger the children the more challenging it is for adults to hear children’s voices‚” she explained.

Basic Education department’s Troy Martens said the Minister hasn’t yet received the letters. “However we welcome them and she looks forward to getting the views and comments from our children when they are delivered.”

Micro elements:
* 94% – the estimated percentage of children that complete primary education while about 83% complete lower secondary

* 34% – The percentage of students that achieve at least a minimum proficiency level in mathematics at the end of lower secondary education

* 19% – Schools found to have poor heating/cooling systems that hindered learning while 23% had limited instructional space that hindered learning.

Source: UNESCO Global Education Monitoring Report

By: Nivashni Nair – TimesLIVE

Source: TMG Digital.