South African politics has a bizarre arrangement that is a legacy of the apartheid era. The ANC, the federation of trade unions (COSATU), and the South African Communist Party (SACP) have an alliance born out of the battle that they fought to overcome the former regime.
Zwelinzima Vavi, the head of COSATU, is quoted as saying that the education system is keeping apartheid alive. He’s right to attack the education system, but he adds nothing constructive to the discussion.
The poverty trap, including poor education standards affects countries round the world, developing and developed. It’s part of the poverty trap, and escaping it is challenging. Esther Duflo, the joint author of Poor Economics is the foremost expert on the subject. In the book she describes how poor parents are forced to decide which child has the best prospect of being the success in the family, and the whole family places its bets on the early developer. The other children are relegated to menial labour. Those not picked eventually succumb to the belief that they are inferior. Paradoxically, scientific studies prove that the best prospect is often not the child the family elected.
Ms Duflo has also come to the conclusion that hope, believing that escape from poverty is possible, is the most influential determinant to making the escape possible.
In other research there are signs that the charter school system can improve education for the poor. The results are promising.
Perhaps everyone would benefit if Mr Vavi spent a little more time reading and a lot less time talking.