On Wednesday morning I accompanied my son Daniel to his first day at school. His little hand in mine, he skipped along in a carefree manner clearly excited about what the future has in store.
My heart was filled with love for my son and with hope that he will grow up to fulfil his potential in a peaceful, prosperous South Africa. But it felt heavy with the knowledge that unless South Africa changes its approach – soon – future prospects for all of our children are uncertain.
Without real reform, six out of every ten grade 1 kids who started school this week alongside my son will drop out before writing matric. Not a single province managed to retain even 50% of 2016’s grade 10 class to write matric in 2018 (other than the DA-run Western Cape, which retained 63% of kids).
Take a minute to consider the implication of that for our future. How can South Africa possibly move forward – reduce poverty, inequality and unemployment – if well over half the next generation won’t even have matric?
Since 1994, the number of unemployed adults in SA has grown from 3.7 million to 9.8 million. Unless we radically change how we do things, it will soon be 10 million and climbing to 11 million. How can we hope to get crime under control and become a peaceful, prosperous society when there are so many desperate and frustrated people locked out of our economy?
Twenty-five years is long enough to have tried out our current approach. Clearly, it’s not working. We need real reform. Urgently.
We can’t afford to tinker at the edge with token projects. Or to delay change with endless summits and talk shops. And yet tomorrow in his January 8th statement, President Ramaphosa will do just this. He will promise to roll out tablets to schoolchildren. This will sound great, but it will have absolutely no effect on education outcomes while 78% of our 10-year-olds cannot read with meaning.
What he should be promising is to stand up to SADTU so that teachers can be better assisted and better incentivized to actually teach our kids.
His SONA promise of a jobs summit sounded great too, but it proved to be a talk shop with no commitment to real economic reform. So joblessness will continue to grow, and we’ll stay two South Africa’s – the “haves” and “have-nots” – with our insider/outsider economy.
The solution is obvious. We need wholesale change that opens opportunities to all South Africans, rather than to specific groups at the expense of the rest. The needs of schoolchildren and the jobless must come ahead of the demands of union bosses and the ANC-connected elite.
The upcoming election is a crucial opportunity to bring real change to SA. If you want to support the DA’s vision of one South Africa for all, please check that you are registered to vote by going to check.da.org.za.
The final registration weekend is 26-27 January. If you are a first-time voter or are not yet registered, please make sure you visit the voting station in your voting district between 8am and 5pm on either the Saturday or the Sunday, with either your green ID book, your smartcard ID or a valid Temporary Identity Certificate.
Our children’s future hangs in the balance. Before we know it, they’ll be young adults going out into the world to build their lives. Let’s not postpone change and delay real reform for another five or ten years. Rather, let’s start building one South Africa for all in 2019.