Ex-minister guest at Cowan 70th anniversary bash
Former finance minister Trevor Manuel used Cowan High School’s 70th anniversary celebrations to lament the state of education in South Africa.
He also said the country was heading for an inevitable downgrade later this year. “The die is cast,” Manuel said. He was guest speaker at a gala evening commemorating the school’s anniversary.
In his address at the EastCape Training Centre in Zwide on Saturday, Manuel spoke about the plight of township schools and those in the northern areas.
“We must understand that life in townships is very different, and one of the reasons for that is because many of the role models have left.”
Manuel is chancellor of the Cape Peninsula University of Technology and has become a vocal critic of President Jacob Zuma.
He said after looking at the recent report on education, he was shattered “because we do not understand education in the current environment”.
“Sixty percent of children in South African schools have not learnt to read … by Grade 3,” he said.
“It’s a deep, profound crisis … 79% of Grade 6 mathematics teachers have a content knowledge of below Grade 7 mathematics and 44% of Grade 4s have not written a single paragraph in any of their workbooks.
“All of this is complicated by a system that now advances learners regardless of whether they understand what they are doing or not.”
Referring to the conduct of #FeesMustFall protesters, Manuel said he was deeply concerned, adding that South Africa was a country of no consequences.
The fact that the Constitutional Court had found Zuma had broken his oath of office while parliament had failed to fulfil its oversight role was a crisis, he said.
Manuel urged people not to turn the other cheek as “most of us have the DNA of the African National Congress coursing through our veins”.
“It has made us, but we shouldn’t stand back and allow the same ANC to do wrong things …”
Asked about the possibility of a downgrade in December, Manuel said rating agencies looked at economic performance and policy certainty when doing assessments.
Based on this, he could not see South Africa avoiding a downgrade.
Other Cowan notables, including businessman Khusta Jack, former Springbok manager Zola Yeye, former deputy mayor Bicks Ndoni, businesswoman Bongi Siwisa and former mayor Nceba Faku, shared their favourite Cowan memories at the event.
Yeye, who was in the class of 1976, joked about being one of the pupils arrested during the uprising that year and said Cowan was not just a school but an institution “with embedded traits of greatness”.
“Ironically, the school doesn’t have a rugby field, [so] the greats that came from the school such as Baba Jali and Themba Ludwaba never had a home ground,” he said.
“Cowan is one of three traditional high schools that started rugby at the time and produced a lot of talent.”
Principal Trevor Dolley saluted the past pupils for remembering their old school.
“We’re a no-fees school, a government school, and we’re very proud of the calibre of learners that we have produced,” he said.
“In the last three years, we’ve managed to raise the pass rate from 38% to 75% and I salute them.”