“Education is the only way out
The way out of ignorance
The way out of darkness
Into the glorious light”
These words were uttered in the movie The Great Debaters
And I would like to debate this
This glorious light that is spoken of, does not speak to me
Because what I see
Is a degree
According to TimesLive that costs you R200 000, but only gets you earning a R2000 salary
This way out entails more than what they tell you
This way is paved with financial burdens, debts, anxiety and insecurity
Of whether or not your glorious light will actually delight you
I read in the Daily Dispatch that there is a Grade 1 failure crisis
This scared me because I realised our discourses are occurring too late
These discourses need to occur at grassroots level
It is here where we need to analyse and critically engage
But this is a conversation that needs to take place when Grade 9 pupils are making subject choices
In Grade 9 they are being misled into believing that Mathematical Literacy will be their major barrier into university
Where in fact they are encouraged to enter institutions of Higher learning
As if South Africa does not need people in Sales and Entrepreneurship
It is at this level where pupils need to be informed of what the world needs them to be
And not necessarily what they want to be
You see, this is the survival of the fittest
And I wish this message was shared with me
Because these pupils are advised to study Physical Science and Mathematics as that will supposedly secure them places in university
Directing them towards studying Medicine and Pharmacy
Enforcing this idea that we need more people in these fields
Forgetting that we have Information Technology, Finance, Business Management and Architecture
This is according to BusinessTech
Yet this is not the cure to our dilemma
Our dilemma is a multifaceted one and needs to be treated as such
It is not only the lack of employment that is the problem
It is the lack of resources students have across South Africa to know what is expected of them
And this is as a result of the structural inequalities that people have been a victim of
And it is in this expectation where our solution might be
Yes, our unemployment rate has decreased from 27.7% to 26.7% in 2017
But what exactly does this mean?
What does it mean to a graduate who has a degree in Journalism where anyone can now be a Journalist?
And we have been talking about free education and what exactly it entails
I was asked in which sector I would want free education to be implemented in
And this had me thinking
That it makes no sense to have free education in Institutions of Higher learning only
When the marginalised people are unable to pay their high school fees
Who is then entering these institutions of higher learning?
Who exactly is free education for?
Who will graduate?
When the dropout rate in South Africa for matriculants is sitting at 44.6% states BusinessTech
Where most university only use online application systems in a country where 46% of our population has access to the internet
And I’m learning that
You can study for several years
Endure everything that university has offered you
You can even graduate
But this graduation is not your security
It does not absolve you from paying off your student debt
It does not even mean that you will enter a field of employment that you studied for
Oh how easily you can forget that you can form part of the 7% of graduates who are included in the unemployed 26.7% states BusinessLive
And this is perhaps where our introspection lies
Where we reflect on our ability to project what has been expected of us.
Where we try to decipher what exactly education is and what it is taking us out of
Where we debunk what this glorious light will be
Beyond graduation caps and gowns
Beyond being capped
Beyond getting that certificate
Beyond the ceremony
Beyond the celebrations
What is this glorious light?
And do we really want to bask in it?
*This poem was published in the Grocott’s Mail, Makana Sharp Graduation edition.