Motshekga has failed miserably

07 December 2017 - 07:24 By The Times Editorial
Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga. File photo
Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga. File photo
Image: Gallo Images

Angie Motshekga has three degrees in education and more than eight years' experience as schools minister, but she is useless at her job. And even if uselessness is the principal qualification needed to ensure survival in President Jacob Zuma's ever-changing cabinet, in Motshekga's case the price being paid is simply too high.

It is this: almost 80% of Grade 4s are functionally illiterate. What that effectively means, as they embark on a phase of their education that stops teaching them to read and starts using reading as a tool to acquire more knowledge, is that they are on course for a lifetime of underachievement and unemployment.

It gets worse. Motshekga knew this five years ago, when the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study reported that 77% of children could not read for meaning. Now the figure is 78%. In response to one horrifying statistic, Motshekga has spent five years achieving an even worse one.

Her department clutches at straws: there's been a slight improvement in Zulu scores; Grade 4s in 2016 achieved a similar score to Grade 5s in 2006; girls are doing better (even though boys' performance is awful); and in some respects the results are questionable.

It also says Motshekga has ordered a "deep dive" into the data. But the inconvenient truth is that, while committees sit, consultants collect hefty fees and Motshekga sits pretty on a R2.3-million-a-year salary, more nine- and 10-year-olds will be well on course for a life in which they stand no chance of fulfilling their potential.

Many of those children will be the same ones whose families came close to the precipice of penury a few months ago, thanks to another useless minister, Bathabile Dlamini.

Why hasn't the ANC prioritised the needs of the poor and disadvantaged in its 23 years in power? It's a question next week's elective conference would do well to consider.