Church leaders seek education crisis meeting with government, unions

Bishop Zipho Siwa.

Faith-based leaders in South Africa want an urgent meeting with the Government and educational unions to seek solutions to the education crisis in the country.

This was resolved at a two-day national “Hope for Education in South Africa” summit in Mangaung, Bloemfontein at which the leaders noted that an estimated 500 000 learners leave the educational system each year with inadequate education, resulting in increasing unemployment, poverty, crime and hopelessness.

At the November 1 to November 2 National Religious Association for Social Development (NRASD) consultation attended by 34 faith-based and educational leaders, it was agreed that the problem underlying the whole education crisis in South Africa is fundamentally a moral one which has led to a lack of discipline, leadership, work ethic and passion among educators and learners, says a media statement released by the office of the Presiding Bishop of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa, Bishop Zipho Siwa, who chaired the summit.

The leaders called upon government and unions to be more accountable for the sake of the country’s children and resolved to urgently seek meetings with government and education related unions. They also committed to actively work together to try and reverse the impact of the crisis through greater collaboration and sharing of best practice initiatives. And they called on the church and the nation to set aside a week of prayer for education — possibly the first week of February.

Bishop Siwa said in his opening remarks that the education crisis is at a tipping point. “This house is on fire,’ he said. These sentiments were also underlined by speakers at the meeting including Rector of the University of the Free State, educator and community activist Professor Jonathan Jansen and Prof Mary Metcalfe, educationist and former Director General of higher education.

“Despite the unbelievable tragedy of the legacy of the apartheid education system, there is incredible hope among the people of South Africa,” Jansen said

He said that his biggest fear was that the youth would get to a point of giving up on education as a whole and instead lean towards ‘get rich quick schemes’ that are portrayed in the media by some of their role models.

Metcalfe described the state of education in the country as a “burning platform because there is high investment for poor returns and effort is fragmented and not systematic, and there is no accountability or responsibility taken.

“No change in practice means no changes in results,” she said.

Decrying the lack of committed parenting, the leaders said that the first place of learning is in the home- teachers and churches build on this. The role of the home and community will be fundamental to solving the existing crisis.

Committing to work together to reverse the impact of the education crisis they said: “We therefore need ‘deep change’ – not only for better school buildings and teaching resources but also revitalised, quality teaching and learning. We affirm the many dedicated and committed educators of whom many more are needed in the system. We must help to restore the moral fabric in our educational system. We commit to pray for our teachers and support them on a regular basis. We need to encourage them but we also need to keep them accountable.”

The leader said: “There is no place for power play and or politics in our educational system as it is always at the expense of our children.”

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