The feature by The Star “SA’s Trillion Rand Education Scandal” (22/02/2010, p. 7), received a MAD OAT Glad nomination for extensive coverage and investigation into South Africa’s education system and how it has failed to improve throughout the years, despite the trillion rand that have been poured into it.

A range of statistics and easy to understand graphs accompanied the feature. These presented comparisons, trends and findings picked up in the education system, including:
• The number of school workdays lost due to strikes in percentages;
• Class of 2009 dropout rates; and,
• The number of learners who wrote and passed matric, from 1995 – when the democratic government had taken over – to 2009.

These were accompanied by statistics on infrastructure backlogs and South Africa’s numeracy and literacy levels compared to other countries.

Angelique Serrao (one of MMA’s child-friendly journalists), who wrote the story, accessed teachers and the Education Department, bringing balance to the article. She also accessed a number of experts who elaborated on some of the other issues that affect children, schools, and the education system at large. These included violence in schools, resources and social issues like poverty.

Serrao went further and interviewed an unemployed mother whose 13-year-old daughter wanted to drop out of school due to her headmistress calling her names. This case study highlighted poverty and brought attention to how teachers can at times demotivate pupils. “[The mother’s] “story, is all too common: parents who do not know their rights and children who just give up”, the feature stated.

Two youths from Soweto, who dropped out of the system in their teens, were also accessed. This gave a face to some of the thousands of children who dropped out of the education system because of various reasons; violence being one them, in the case of these two.

The two young men also gave perspective into the loss of hope, in schools in the township. They were quoted as saying, “People don’t think of school as their future. Only those who go to multiracial schools think that way.”

They spoke about how they gave into peer pressure, drugs and alcohol, after quitting school, providing a hint of what happens to some of these children when they drop out of school.

Media Monitoring Africa congratulates the journalist and The Star on a brilliant, well-investigated and informative piece. Let’s hope the government, society at large, teachers, and pupils take note.