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Talking about education

There have been many problems in the schools all over South Africa this year. Some schools opened for a couple of days. Some schools were open for a couple of months. At some schools students wrote exams but at other schools they did not.

Students refused to go to school until their demands were met. The students said they wanted Students’ Representative Councils (SRC’s) and they wanted COSAS to be unbanned. They wanted the State of Emergency to be lifted and they wanted the troops out of the townships.

The Department of Education and Training (the D.E.T.) closed seventy schools because students were boycotting.

Learn and Teach spoke to people about the school problem. We asked people how they think the school problems can come to an end.


Archie Siwisa, a member of the Transvaal Students Congress (TRASCO) said: “When the new school year started we wanted to go back to school. But then the DET came with many new rules. They said that students must carry identity cards at school. The students did not like these rules and that is why we boycotted classes.

”We did not tell any students to boycott exams. We told students that they must decide if they are ready to write exams. We do not agree with people who stone and hit other students. We said students must decide together if they are going to write or not. But if they decide that they are not going to write, then all of them must not write.

”We would like to go back to school next year. But it is very difficult to say what is going happen. We do not know what the government is going to do. We told the DET that we will go back to school if they meet our demands. Our demands are:

  • All students who are in detention must be released.

  • the DET must meet and talk to the NECC.

  • the DET must give the schools to the NECC, so that the NECC can give us People’s Education.

A 16 year old pupil at Daliwonga High School in Soweto said: “We did not write the exams because some schools were closed. It is not fair if we wrote when students at other schools could not write. Besides, we did not study enough this year. So if we wrote exams, what would we write about?

“I do not know what will happen next year. I think that students will go on with their boycott if they do not get a better education. I think that they are doing a good thing by fighting for a better education.

“Bantu Education is bad. It teaches us useless things. I want to learn and know things and Bantu Education does not do this. We want ‘People’s Education’. ‘People’s Education’ is education for everyone. People of all colours must learn the same thing.”

Vusi, a Form Three student, said: “Well, it is very difficult to say what is going to happen next year. But I think most students are bored with staying home now. So maybe next year they will go back to school.

“As for me, I will do what other pupils do. If they go back to school, I will also go back. If they do not go back, I will also stay at home. We must think of our children. They must not get Bantu Education like us. They must get ‘People’s Education’. I am not sure what ‘People’s Education’ is — but it will be better than Bantu Education.”

David, a Form Four student, said: “I think the ‘comrades’ are wrong. We worked very hard this year and then at the end of the year, we could not write our exams. If the ‘comrades’ are not ready for exams, let them suffer. We want to write our exams.

“And I do not think that next year things will change. I think students will not write their exams again. That is why next year I am going to study with adults at the night school so that I can write my matric.”


Mrs Mbatha: “I know that our children want better education. But I think sometimes they are wrong. You find them stoning buses and burning cars which bring food to the township. How will that help them get a better education?

“The children are wrong to chase the pupils who want to write their exams. Black people are fighting with each other. I do not think violence is right.

“I think that pupils must support each other. If they boycott, then they must all boycott because they all want a better education. ‘An injury to one, is an injury to all.’ “

Mr Mkhwanazi said: “I think half a loaf of bread is better than nothing. What is going to happen if we get freedom and we know nothing? We will be fifty years behind the times. Besides, where are these children going to find work if they have no schooling?”

Mrs Buthelezi said: “I think that parents must help their children to get good education. But most parents just get up, go to work and then come home to sleep. And all the time their children are having many problems.

“Some of their problems are the same problems we workers have. For example, we as workers, have a group of shop stewards who talk to the bosses when we have problems. But workers who are not members of a union have no-one to talk for them.

“Our children also have no-one to talk for them. They had COSAS but it was banned. But even before COSAS was banned, the Department of Education and Training did not want to listen to them.

“The government must listen to the children. The troops must come out of the townships. I know that I cannot work with someone pointing a gun at me. So how can our children learn with soldiers in their schools?

“I think that our children are right when they fight for better education. Just look at us. Look how we are suffering.”

Mrs Malaza said: “I think that it is wrong to let our children start street committees. We, as older people, must come together. We have lived with one another for a long time. We must talk as parents and then after that, we must call our children to our meetings.

“But when you go to meetings, you find that they are called by children. And you find that old people just keep quiet. The children are the ones who talk and choose members. No, it is wrong. Our children must not do everything on their own, no.

“You find children calling a stayaway — not the workers. What we parents must do, is to go to the meetings. Our children need control — and support. ‘

‘And if we do this, then we can choose education for our own children. Our children cannot learn what they want to learn because they are too young to know. I think that COSATU must support the children. COSATU supports many things but it does not do anything about the education of the children.”

Mr Mokoena said: “I think our children are right when they say they want education that will help them in life. At the moment you find people with matric looking for work as cleaners. And people of other races with matric do better jobs.

“The education I want for my children is one that will teach him or her to be a better person. At school, children must learn about what they will do later. For example, if my son wants to be a welder, he must learn that at school. If my other child wants to become a lawyer, then she must study law at school.

This will make it easier for our children to go on with their studies. But I still say we as parents must say what we want our children to learn.”


The Rev. Molefe Tsele of the National Education Crisis Committee (NECC) said “We do not know what is going to happen next year. But we have started working on ‘People’s Education’. We have written books for English and History so that the students can use them next year. We hope to write books for the other subjects soon.

“We think that children must go back to school next year. And the government must open the schools that they closed. Closing the schools will not change education.

“Our message to parents is: Stand up. Talk to other parents about your children’s schooling. Do not let other people talk for your children.”

Lybon Mabasa spoke for AZAPO and AZASM: “We think the best education system must make the struggle stronger. That is why we think that education can be used to help the struggle. And that is why we do not agree with people who say: ‘Liberation now, education later’. We think that students must go back to school. But we do not know if they will go back.

But maybe one person who is right is old Mrs Mtetwa. She says: “People are confused. They do not know what to do. As a parent, I am one of those who are confused. And my children are confused too.”


What do you think of what is happening in the schools? Do you think you can help with the education problem? Do you think the students must carry on boycotting until they get a better education? Or do you think that Bantu Education is better than boycotting? Do you agree with what other people say? Please write to us and tell us what you think. We will print your letters in the next magazine.


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