A time of Laziness

Today I found myself worrying about the state of education in South Africa. And no, not the usual “Basic Education in South Africa is lacking”, but the “We really don’t have to learn more than we already know” state of education in South Africa.

I noticed this trend for the first time two weeks ago when I met a (by no means unintelligent) young man that came to freelance at the place that I currently call my employment enjoyment, also known as work to the more pessimistic among you. He has been studying for his diploma in the field of IT and Business studies, and despite several signs of his intelligence, seemed to be under performing grade-wise. After a subtle amount of interrogation I realised his college employed not only a derivative of the OBE (Outcomes Based Education) system that has been such an amazing and utter dismal failure in the South African environment, but also a “group system” where groups of people work together on one programming assignment.

The problem with this system is that in the South African environment it means that one person that actually wants to pass does all the work, and everybody else freeloads on that person’s work. But when push comes to shove, the person that did all the work can perform well in exams and tests, whereas everyone else is left behind.

This has shown me the disturbing reality that someone can easily be made to look competent in the South African education system. Yet again, for iteration, this young man was, without a doubt in my mind, intelligent. But because of the lack of an environment where he needed to learn in order to improve his own knowledge, he managed to get by by doing the bare minimum that was required of him.

This mulled around my head for the past two weeks, and then in an instant my anger towards this system reared its ugly head today.

A girl walked into the shop with 2 laptops with a complete lack of understanding about how they work. This in itself is fine, as we work in a computer shop that does repairs and helps customers in need of some technical expertise in the field of their IT related needs.

But what got to me was that when I suggested to her that she could just use Google to search for her problem and find out and teach herself how to overcome her minor problems when they arose, she immediately shot down the suggestion, saying she doesn’t have time for that. Her rebuttal was that she wanted to take lessons from us on how to navigate the computer, as Googling takes too long (All the while showing remarkable prowess, skill and understanding of a small wireless handheld device that is connected to the Global System for Mobile Communications).

This led me to a serious question:
When did we get so lazy that even Google is too slow a way to find our answers? Our ancestors, Homo Nongooglerus, managed to find answers by thinking through problems, visiting a library and if all else failed, asking someone who knew better than themselves. Now we live in a world where we do not even have the time to find the answer for ourselves. Everything has become so fast paced that our knowledge should not be gained, but served upon a golden platter of feasting! And yet again, the power of the many is gained from the work of the few.

This cycle of people demanding respect and honor for someone else’s work needs to come to an end! Laziness is a disease that is spread throughout the veins of South Africa, and the few hard working South Africans get blamed for the state of the country because they are trying to achieve something and yet they are failing. And why? Because they have to pull the dead weight of the rest of the country along with them!

South Africa, it is time that everyone looks towards themselves and asks
“What can I do for my people?”
rather than
“What can my people do for me?”.

All it takes is just a little self motivation.
Nothing more,
Nothing less.

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Education is everybody’s right, but at what cost?

Everyday I realize that the masses in South Africa are still devoid of a proper education. Teaching isn’t a glamorous profession where teachers are respected, handed apples by the students after class and paid a decent salary at the end of the month anymore. If anything, teaching is a profession where only the bravest and most steadfast souls tread.

And yet, even with this severe disrespect that the teachers get, children and parents still demand an education for the youth. But even after receiving their education, children claim that it is “no longer relevant” to them. 

No disrespect to the teachers, but I agree with the children. It might seem harsh but bear with me. Currently the education system in South Africa is heavily reliant on printed media being delivered to the school in a timely fashion, and all the information is only current as soon as the book is printed. 

But as seen as recently as three months ago, books are not necessarily delivered on time (http://mg.co.za/article/2012-08-10-00-still-no-books-despite-departmental-progress-reports), and after a year or so a lot of the information might be outdated or even wrong depending on discoveries and research made in those particular fields. I remember working out of books that were so old that the information might have been translated from hieroglyphics! 

Technology has allowed children to start teaching themselves at a young age, and just by handing children a tablet, they can easily teach themselves. In India, for instance, tablets were handed to children in a rural village, and within months they were able to teach themselves the letters of the English alphabet (http://qz.com/26244/how-a-20-tablet-from-india-could-finish-off-pc-makers-educate-billions-and-transform-computing-as-we-know-it). It might seem like an everyday thing to you and me, but these kids never had interaction with higher forms of technology before this, and there are no teachers to help them learn. 
These tablets are also extremely cheap at only $40 (about R350 in South African Rand), and thus, with a little bit of monetary funding from the government, these tablets can be available for even cheaper to underprivileged students. 

E-books can be written and published for download on the student’s tablets, the whole curriculum can be made available on a single device that weighs no more than any regular school book, and children who no longer receive a relevant education will have access to the latest and greatest teaching tool that has ever been created:
The Internet.

In the short term, it might be slightly more expensive to get the tablets to students, but unlike books, the tablets do not become outdated in terms of information. The newest information is always available on the internet, and a higher level of education can be reached by all. Tablets can also be used year after year during a child’s school years. And the cost of getting new material that is needed to study for the rest of the year? Ten minutes of time to download a few megabytes of data, and possibly a small fee towards the publisher of the e-book. 

In conclusion, in order to raise the standard of education in a country, the technology that makes it possible needs to be embraced. The children of today will be the adults of tomorrow, and to build a better and more intelligent society that works towards improving itself in the future we need to raise the standard of education among everyone today.