Whilst the educator must have authority and mastery of content, it is imperative to note that facilitating learning has more benefits than directing learning. Paulo Freire, a Brazilian revolutionary in his conversation with Maccedo, admitted that, to have authority does not mean being authoritative.

A directive pedagogy and an exclusive curriculum are features of a dominant neoliberal hegemony to blame for the current exclusions and marginalization bedeviling the education sector today.  Such an approach is exogenous hence will not be able to respond to the needs of the indigenous communities.  It is high time the world move towards an alternative emancipatory pedagogy and a decolonized curriculum if the predicaments in South Africa’s education system are to be addressed, failure of which education will remain sterile. In fact, a pedagogical approach which allows the subaltern to speak is more empowering than a hierarchical one. Education policy makers must work towards investing in reforming the methodology of teaching, redefining sites of learning and making the curriculum more inclusive and responsive to the needs of the community. Addressing pedagogical issues will require looking at reconstructing education infrastructure and detoxicating the mindset of the learner, the policy maker and the community in general, following years of indoctrination and propaganda.

The White Paper on Education and Training published in 1995 and the ANC’s 1994 document on reconstruction and development admitted the need for the total overhaul of the education system towards the one that embraced critical and independent thought. Despite all this effort, very little was done to create an environment conducive for critical thought. There seem to be no political will to liberate the pedagogy and decolonize the curriculum because the status quo seem to benefit those in power.

Teacher education seem not to embrace problem posing and community oriented teaching methodologies, but the widely discredited traditional authoritarian approach that present the leaner as an object and the teacher as the knower par excellence. Yet she can also be a learner in the learning process. Research has shown that such an approach largely misses target. There is a disjuncture between what policy offers and practice. Very little has been done to align practice with progressive emancipatory and problem posing approaches stipulated in some government documents.

A narrative that admits that a teacher can also learn from the experience of her students is more effective than the one which present learners as objects with nothing to offer in the learning process. The mindset that treats a learner as an object and the teacher as supreme, is a manifestation of a dominant colonial legacy, justifying the verdict that apartheid did not die as was widely anticipated, but continued in many different forms in post-colonial South Africa. Radical educationists have lashed out at this form of teaching as authoritarian, dehumanizing and misleading.

If the learner is respected as a subject and an equal contributor to the learning process, it is high likely that cases of indiscipline and lack of eagerness to learn among learners in South African schools, would be dealt with. In other words, indiscipline among learners in most schools should be located largely within a rigid education system that does not meet the immediate needs of the learner. It is therefore easy to conclude that learner insubordination can be understood as a revolt by learners against the dominant directive approach of learning.

In an environment where emphasize is on mass production of cheap labor for the labor market, and not cultivating critical citizens, education losses its value and becomes dishonest. The objective is profit making and not to address a human need. It is this mindset from policy makers that must be changed if education is to have value.  It is an outcome based education system with no regard for nurturing critical citizens but slaves and instruments of the labor market. The objective is to disempower and not to empower. The only approach that can be empowering should look at the value of education in building a citizen and not how much can be harvested. It is therefore misleading to look at education as a profitable venture, and not a critical developmental tool. There is no consideration of quality but quantity. This explains why overcrowded and under resourced schools are evident in most township communities in South Africa.

School infrastructure which was designed for mass production, reinforces traditional teaching methods and not liberating ones.  Walking in most school classrooms, resembles an army barrack characterized by permanent fixed desks, arranged in rows making it difficult for the educator to move around. The teacher’s position is fixed, one directional, making her the undisputable owner of knowledge. There is less room for interaction among participants and with facilitator. The moment a learner gets in such an environment; she becomes not only a prisoner but a rebel.

In order to come up with an alternative, there is need to look at education infrastructure and the mindset of the learner, community and policy maker after years of indoctrination. Infrastructure that promotes interaction and effective facilitation must be prioritized if empowering pedagogical approaches are to work.

Progressive and radical scholars have attempted to replace terms such as teacher with facilitator and learner with participant to dismantle the boundary and dispel suspicion and mistrust created in a teacher- learner relationship. What is more important is to prepare the world psychologically for such an eventuality following years of misinformation.

Learners in a solidarity march calling for education reform in the Western Cape.

 It is important to note that the current discourse has failed and what needs to be done now is to look for an alternative and not to insist on ridding a dead donkey.  If a radical step is not taken the world will be forced to conform to a system that is inherently exploitative.

Educators must start sharing power with the learner as a way forward, with the knowledge that sharing power does not necessarily mean surrendering it. It is in sharing power that the learner realizes her value and dignity. In an environment where learners are not eager to learn, directive pedagogical approaches will not succeed. Sharing power with the learner, can be a step towards finding a solution to the multifaceted challenges affecting humanity.

Teacher unions have criticized the National Curriculum and Assessment Policy as robbing learners of the much needed content. In other words, those who must be benefitting from the curriculum were never involved in its formulation and implementation.  Attempts to consult the public in the process of its implementation is meant to legitimize and rubber stamp what is fundamentally exotic. For the curriculum to be relevant, it must be community driven in terms of content and must answer to the aspirations and the needs of the community in question. The learner, teacher and parent must be involved in its formulation and implementation. Its ownership must move from the hands of capital to the hands of those who need it most- the learner, the commoner and the working class. It is regrettable that, the curriculum has often been used or abused to promote content that at the end of the day has no value and is used to exploit the poor and the working class. It is a curriculum meant to produce loyal slaves for the labor market, for purposes of capital accumulation.

Today, South Africa is in a state of socio economic collapse, because its curriculum was not designed to address the immediate needs of the communities that needs it most, and its pedagogy outdated. It was never designed with the people in mind, but human machines. No doubt it is this nature of the curriculum that has worsened poverty, unemployment and crime in Mzansi, as it is rigid and fails to promote alternatives to human challenges.

At universities, in economic departments for instance, the curriculum is designed to blindly venerate western economic models of development, even though they are failing in their countries of origin. It does not promote independent thoughts or an alternative discourse, but produces what leftist scholar Samir Amin called the brainwashed cadres, dominating most government departments and international organs today. These cannot think outside the box but perpetuate the dominant narrative. Their understanding of economics reflects failed neoliberal policies of the west which is still viewed in many government departments as the best practice. They fail to understand that these are human ideas which can be challenged.

There is also need to decentralize sites of learning giving more value to previously sidelined informal learning sites. Effective learning is not only that offered at universities and colleges, isolated from the people but also that which is informal. The role of organic intellectuals must be commended in steering emancipatory forms of learning. This is not to say universities are not of value but a quest for an alternative to human challenges. Though attempts have been made by universities to partner with communities through research, it is an organic intellectual operating at an informal learning site who is better placed to steer discussions on the challenges in Khayelitsha for instance, and come up with an alternative in the process.

Transforming education in South Africa, requires addressing the root cause of the problem and not the symptoms. It further requires courage to challenge the dominant narrative and the ability to experiment, and not to rely on approaches attempted and failed in other parts of the world. The alternative will require an understanding that communities are unique and require unique strategies to their challenges. This is not an attempt to discourage learning from others, but to encourage a critical analysis of borrowed concepts and measurement of feasibility of concepts before application. South Africa in particular and third world countries in general must not hesitate to reject concepts that does not work in their favor.

 

Learners, teachers and parents in a solidarity march against mounting challenges to education in the Cape Flats.

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