South Africa’s township schools have been suffering from poor outcomes for decades, beginning during the Bantu Education Act of 1953 and persisting after the end of apartheid to the present. When examining why these schools produce such dismal outcomes, it is evident that a lack of funding, ineffective policies, and lack of attention are not the cause. Despite receiving ample attention from the government, these previously disadvantaged schools fall short in assessment scores, matriculation rates, and overall success of the students.
Examining the lives of students outside of school, it is clear that educational stimulation and continuous learning are not occurring within the home. While it is commonly understood that a student’s dedication to his or her work, their diligence, and their success are a reflection of the learning and the encouragement that occurs beyond the classroom, the parents within townships are unable to fulfill this role of the at-home teacher. According to the values of the township community, education is not an important matter and is shadowed by elements such as domestic life, family relations, and community interaction. Simultaneously, single mothers are the norm in township communities where fathers either abandon their families or are too busy earning a wage to devote time to the care and attention of children. Thus, when students come home from school, it is their first and foremost duty to cater to the needs of their mothers, which most likely includes domestic chores and caring for younger children. Schoolwork gets pushed aside without a second thought and without any consideration by parents.
My research suggests that a culture of learning established outside of the school and in the home is key to producing desirable outcomes in schools. This hypothesis is applicable not only in South Africa but also to inner-city schools of the United States as well, where family structure is just as fragmented and unstable. Similarly, such U.S. students grow up in circumstances where they must carry the burdens of their parents and families and do not have the focus, the support, or the attention to dedicate themselves to their studies.
A cycle of apathetic students and parents has formed in both inner city United States and the townships of South Africa. A culture of learning must be fostered in the home first before educational outcomes will improve. Suggestions of how to begin to grow a culture of learning can be made; however, further research is needed. Research should first be conducted within the realm of the domestic space both in South African townships and in inner cities of the U.S. in order to further validate my hypothesis. To further examine this issue, ethnographers must go into these communities and record the lives of the families, their daily duties, their values and morals, and the relationships of members of the family, especially that between the parent(s) and children.
First and foremost, the growth of a culture of learning must begin with the parents. When the parents understand and see education as an investment in their children’s future, and when they are convinced that learning must not only occur inside of school but must also continue in the home via stimulation by parents, then a culture of learning will be more welcomed and the environment for its growth more hospitable. The way in which the parents may be able to grasp the concept of at-home extension of learning is through personal experience. Thus, adult courses should begin in the community, including various training courses, business courses, ESL courses, etc., which would prompt them to work on the material outside of the course and allow them to see the greater results and success they receive by reviewing and practicing the material on their own outside of the classroom. Only by having this firsthand experience will parents know to assist their children with their schoolwork at home, ensuring the child’s understanding of and comfort with the material they are learning.
By developing a culture of learning within one generation of students, a new educational trajectory can begin to grow. Students whose parents are involved in their children’s education and who place high importance on success and matriculation are more likely to succeed and to see the value of education. These students later become both parents and teachers and will transfer the same attention towards their own children’s schooling, which will only serve to build upon a population of eager and active students in generations to come. All it takes is one generation of students raised in a culture of learning to abolish the cycle of apathetic students being produced by township and inner city schools and to set following generations on a promising course in both education and professional success.