The real key to success


The month of June reminds us of the importance of access to quality education. Right now in South Africa this is a contested terrain. The battle lines are drawn and the protagonists are the government, learners and educators.

Parents do occasionally get involved but in the majority of cases they choose not to. Relegating the education of their children to someone else is what many South African parents have opted for. Who can blame them, it is much easier to do so than to engage in the culture of reading to your child and being fully part of his academic progress.

Real education starts at home
Real education, however, starts at home and not in a classroom. Numerous studies do show that children who were exposed to reading before preschool are more likely to do well in formal education. Besides academic excellence the website ‘Early Moments’ lists other benefits for such children. I have selected a few here. Firstly the exercise helps with the development of basic speech and communication skills. Secondly it helps with the mastery of language. Thirdly with logical thinking skills and fourthly it enhances concentration and discipline.

In other words children whose parents read to them while they are toddlers and preschoolers acclimatise better in a formal schooling environment than those who are denied this privilege. The late Rev Dr Simon Gqubule understood this and in an SAFM interview conducted shortly before his passing he revealed that he read regularly to his children before they attended school. The result is that all three children went on to attain masters’ qualifications in South African universities and overseas.

Self-education is the answer
Growing up I was thoroughly marinated in the mantra that education is the key to success. For a while I believed in this but today I am very skeptical. I believe it is self-education and an inherent desire for knowledge that is the key to success. American entrepreneur, author and motivational speaker Jim Rohn once said: “Formal education will make you a living; self-education will make you a fortune.

Over reliance on formal education takes away a self-driven initiative to acquire knowledge.

Ray Bradbury once said: “I don’t believe in colleges and universities. I believe in libraries because most students don’t have any money.” Bradbury was an American novelist, short story writer, essayist, playwright, screenwriter and poet. He graduated from a Los Angeles High School in 1938.

Today a person needs a lot of money to acquire formal education but very little to self-educate. I went to school primarily because the carrot that was dangled in front of me was that education would guarantee me a job placement. Indeed the prospects of getting a job are improved when you have an education but a system that only churns out job seekers is an impediment to the country’s growth and sustainability.

Breaking the mould
We need people who are able to break the mould and show us that even without formal education great things can be achieved. We know this can happen because some of the world’s richest individuals are college and university dropouts, so I can take comfort in knowing that I am in good company. Do not get me wrong – I would have loved to have a picture on my wall showing me being capped in some university but circumstances beyond my control prevented this.

In any case, education is a lifelong process and the whole world is a school. What we lack are students who would become autodidacts or self-taught individuals. We have such an example in President Jacob Zuma and so also with former US President Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln had very limited education but he once said: “All I have learned, I learned from book.” It is a pity then that some South Africans choose to burn community libraries and schools when they protest against lack of service delivery. In my view there is not greater delivery than being given access to knowledge.

As Christians there is one book that we need to value above all, to become all that we were created to be. For without knowledge [of God’s truth] we perish. We will never learn to understand and apply the wisdom of this book if all that we know of it is what we hear from the pulpit. We need to study it ourselves.


  1. Colleen Foster

    Excellent article Afrika Mhlophe. I agree with so much of this article. Thank you.

  2. Peter Mc Gregor

    A pointer in the right direction; the lack of Divine truth is a danger to society at large. “The Bible always incarnates ideals in great personalities, and Joseph (O.T.) stands for the magnificent integrity of boyhood; no man thinks so clearly or has such ideals as (he does) in his teens; but unless our ideals find us living in accordance with them, they become a mockery. The Bible pays no attention to intellectual and emotional conceptions, but only to the actual manifestation of the ideal. A man may have remarkable conceptions, fine intellectual views, noble ideals and his actual life be beneath contempt, proving that all the high ideals and intellectual conceptions in the world have not the slightest power to bring the life (of man) into contact with (the) reality (of knowing GOD)” from “Our Portrait in Genesis” by Oswald Chambers.(1874 – 1917)