Some people have this troublesome tendency of linking unrelated bits of information and drawing conclusions that upset politicians and journalists.
A piece in The Times caught my eye.
“Desperate matrics have joined the long queues at the Tshwane University of Technology's Pretoria West campus in a bid to enrol in whatever course is available at the institution.
“'All I want is to be accepted. I have nowhere to sleep, so the streets will be my home until I get sorted if I do not find a good samaritan to offer me a place,' 21-year-old Dineo Buthelezi said.”
Excuse me? Completed matric at age 21? Did the journalist not think this was strange?
Don't get me wrong. I think passing your matric at any age is laudable. But it begs the question of how many other older pupils are lurking among our results, because that points to earlier failures in the schooling system.
But I digress…
Our matric results have improved. Our overall pass rate is up. The number of people passing mathematics has increased.
Our education minister says it is time to celebrate. In terms of her delivering on her measurable, she's probably correct.
This week, I came across an interchange between US President Barack Obama and Apple's Steve Jobs in the second half of 2010. I quote from Walter Isaacson's biography:
"Jobs also attacked America’s education system, saying that it was hopelessly antiquated and crippled by union work rules. Until the teachers’ unions were broken, there was almost no hope for education reform.
"Teachers should be treated as professionals, he said, not as industrial assembly-line workers. Principals should be able to hire and fire them based on how good they were.
"Schools should be staying open until at least 6pm and be in session eleven months of the year.
"It was absurd, he added, that American classrooms were still based on teachers standing at a board and using textbooks. All books, learning materials, and assessments should be digital and interactive, tailored to each student and providing feedback in real time."
But again, I digress…
Over the past 18 years since my return to my country during which I personally have trained and mentored hundreds of youngsters, I have seen a steady decline in the readability of letters applying for positions and accompanying CVs.
Here's one typical example of correspondence I receive looking for employment opportunities:
"Good day Sir i hope u r wel!I need your advice with somthing important dat i feel is going 2 change my life 4 ever!I knw it is belived or said dat dez no such thing as a new idea but i berg 2 differ i think iv came up with a fresh unique idea 2 start an exclusive fashion line!I am affraid 2 tell any1 else about it bcoz im affraid it myt b stolen 4rm me,wht am asking 4rm u is sum advise on who i can approuch about dis n if possible i can tell u abt it n find out wht u think!#i promise u ds is one of da kind neva been done before#Thank u in advance"
And here's another:
"Dear mr Kenthan my name is precious I would like to ask how do I apply to y acandamy as i have pass my matric with a good results Thanks"
I expect at this point that several people will accuse me of being Eurocentric or trying to impose a foreign language on non-English speakers or wanting to be back under apartheid.
None of those is true. What is true, as HSBC points out in their global ad campaigns, is that there are more people in China studying English than there are English speakers in England.
This is a globalised world. We can either choose to dominate it or be swallowed by it.
The first step in dominating it requires that we speak its language coherently. The Chinese understand this. The Indians have always understood this.
Observe the following statement: "No one who is unable to string a sentence together can become CEO of Anglo American."
I, and no doubt many other South Africans, would have liked to have seen one of our own taking over as head of our most significant mining company after Cynthia Carroll stepped down.
But here's my point: Neither of the two example job applicants I quote above has been given enough grounding to enable them to become potential candidates for the Anglo CEO job in 30 years’ time.
When our high school pupils are not taught the basics of how to write a letter of application and how to check their spelling (especially with regard to names), how can we expect them to end up getting employed?
I forgot. They can join government of course.