Statistics by the World Bank’s Human Capital Index show that children born in South Africa today will only develop up to 43% of their potential, compared to a global average of 56%.
The same data shows that a South African child who starts school at age 4 can expect to complete 10.2 years of school by their 18th birthday, and factoring in what children learn, only complete an expected 5.6 years of schooling. By the age of 10, 80% of children are unable to read and understand a simple text.
With data such as this, it is no wonder that so many of our young people face almost certain unemployment and continued poverty and hardships into adulthood.
Allowing our children to continue in this broken cycle will only guarantee the same results we are currently seeing; children struggling academically, dropping out of school before completing their schooling, and young adults struggling to enter the workforce or study further after matric, leading to rising unemployment and poverty.
Breaking this cycle starts by prioritising our educational system. There should be enough schools available so that children can go to schools close to where they stay, and classrooms are not filled to overcapacity. Schools should be equipped with sufficient qualified teachers and staff, and with all the resources needed, including running water and toilets that can flush.
Parents and family members should be supported and empowered with the knowledge and resources needed to play a meaningful role in the education of their children. This includes helping children build their emotional intelligence so that they can become healthy and functional members of their communities.
Talking about helping our youth become economically active or play meaningful roles in the economic progress of our nation will never be feasible unless we go to the root of our problem; the majority of our children are not receiving the benefit of a good quality education that is preparing them for life after school. Education is a right of every child in South Africa, and it is the responsibility of the Government, civil society and communities to ensure that our children’s right to education is fulfilled and that our children do not only reach 43% of their potential.
If we truly believe that our children are the future of our nation, then we should be providing each and every one of them the opportunity to reach their fullest potential. Let’s start doing that by prioritising their right to education.