Opinion

Focus on Grade R, not free higher education

Focus on Grade R, not free higher education

InThursday night's Stateof the Nation Address President Cyril Ramaphosa said "ifwe are to ensure that within the next decade, every 10-year-old will be able toread for meaning, we will need to mobilise the entire nation behind a massivereading campaign.

A National Reading Coalition will be launched to "coordinatethis national effort".

It's a step in the right direction certainly. Yet, inJune 2019, Grade R is not compulsory in our country. Why? I fail to understandthis. If compulsory schooling at the start of the foundation phase has stillnot happened, how the hell do we get a massive reading campaign off the ground?

Why are we still campaigning tobring early childhood development (ECD) and Grade R teachers into the formaleducation fold?

Elijah Mhlanga, national spokesperson for thedepartment of basic education, toldIOL earlier this month that "Grade R is part ofthe foundation phase and therefore adheres to all relevant aspects of thecurriculum, norms and standards" and that "as and when the BasicEducation Laws Amendment Bill is promulgated, Grade R will become a compulsoryinitial grade in the foundation phase".

Whyhas this not happened yet?

"All foundation and intermediate phase teachers are to betrained to teach reading in English and the African languages, and we aretraining and deploying a cohort of experienced coaches to provide high qualityon-site support to teachers…

"Government is also introducing subjects like coding and dataanalytics at a primary school level," Ramaphosa went on to say.

How are we going to prepare our young people for the jobs of thefuture when we are STILL battling with basics? Why are westill here?

Free education at tertiary level means nothing if we can't hack itat foundation phase level. Thank goodness for the students who have fought forand continue to fight for free education. But what about the little ones?  

Yes, the ones whose parents may not be able to read but who alsowant the best for their kids. Why are we not focusing on that? How much longerdo they have to wait?

Why are we not fighting harder for our young children?

Grade R… and Grade RR that many of our former model C and privateschools do have as entry (well, it is preferred anyway) should be compulsoryfor everyone. FOR EVERYONE.

If we want free education, why are we not starting there? At thefoundation of where our young ones learn. 

Ifail to see how we can move on if we do not get this right. Maybe if we startedat the beginning, our kids wouldn't have to play catch up so hard further downthe line.