The Glass is Half Full - Hope for Education in South Africa

BY SIMON CRANE - JULY 14, 2015

I have spent four days recently at the International Boys' School Coalition Conference in Cape Town and what I learned is that so many aspects of education in South Africa are streets ahead of our counterparts in the US, in Europe and in Australia.

You'd be right to question me on this and I don't blame you for immediately reaching for your keyboard to pen me a "How can you say that?" response.

In many ways in South Africa we are guilty of thinking ourselves the poorer cousins of our overseas educational cousins, but we need to shed this negative and destructive identity. Yes, we do have significant problems in South Africa, that is most certainly true, but it is a falsity to believe that the grass is greener elsewhere.

I listened at this Conference to keynote addresses from extraordinary South Africans: Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, Judge Edwin Cameron, Willhelm Verwoerd, the grandson of Prime Minister Hendrik Verwoerd and Nelson Mandela's bodyguard, Mr Rory Steyn. At each address I was struck by the messages of hope, of forgiveness, of courage and of the forward-thinking strategies of South Africa.

At each of the smaller addresses by teachers from schools around the world I listened and took enormous encouragement as I discovered that in South Africa we are ahead in so many areas.

In 2007 I came back to South Africa from the UK so that my children could be educated here in this country. My wife and I did not want our children at school in the UK. We've both taught there for many years and yet when the time came to look to our own children's futures, we turned to South Africa for their education.

It is my belief that we have a wealth of hope right here in our country. We are 21 years old and I know that not everything is working as it should. I know that there are problems, but I also know that I choose South Africa over the United Kingdom because we have those old-school values of humility, self-respect, forgiveness, courtesy, integrity, faithfulness and self-control embedded deep within our consciousness.

At Woodridge College and Preparatory School we work hard to given our pupils a sense of purpose, a sense of hope, a sense of a place in South Africa's future. We equip them with the skills that they will need to be the right-thinking young men and women that our country needs.

Archbishop Tutu at the IBSC Conference spoke of children as being born "without exception...in innocence for goodness and love" and it is this that we must hold onto.

As the new South Africa ages, we must remember the messages from our leaders; from Tutu and Mandela and we must hold true to our course. We must not feel second-rate to other countries, because we are not and every day we must strive to honour the extraordinary legacy that has been left for us to continue.