As we get ready to celebrate Human Rights Day on Thursday, South Africa as a nation reflects upon and honours the men and women who laid down their lives for a rights-based, democratic and just society.
Education has for many years been a very important issue in South Africa, as the education system tries to redress the inequalities of the past to ensure that all South Africans are given an equal opportunity to become productive members of society.
With this in mind, it is up to all of us to become passionate about education and make a difference. Here are some of the ways that you can contribute towards developing the human right of education, not just on one day, but throughout the year.
Whether you are still at school yourself, or you have children that are attending school, there is always an opportunity to play an active role in ensuring that the school in your community improves and succeeds in its mandate. Students can join student councils, parents can join school governing bodies and community members can form voluntary groups to help upgrade schools in the area.
Education is the key to success, so the importance of learning should never be underestimated or downplayed. Studies show that children who are supported by their families with homework and projects are likely to perform significantly better in academic examinations than those who do not. By showing an interest and making sure that homework is completed on time, parents communicate the fact that school work is important and needs to be taken seriously.
A mentor is more than an adviser. A mentor provides you with wisdom, technical knowledge, assistance, support, empathy and respect throughout, and often beyond, your studies. Mentoring helps students understand how their ambitions fit into graduate education, department life and career choices.
Finding a mentor can be incredibly advantageous to learners and students above the age of 16. The journey into adulthood can be made easier if there is a role model available to lead by example and offer essential advice. Mentorship roles can be fulfilled by parents, relatives, older students, teachers or lecturers or any responsible person who would be willing to lend a guiding hand.
Push the limits
Setting high expectations for ourselves and for others around us can be instrumental in the development of education. Students respond to clearly set expectations. Rather than keeping those expectations low for students with poor classroom performance, raising them to high expectations can help bring them up to higher levels of performance.
Additionally, learner confidence can promote positive attitudes and behaviours that motivate students to tackle challenging learning activities. This is particularly important for learners entering secondary school because during these years many students disengage in school. When students turn away from school, they are less likely to take courses aligned with preparing them for tertiary education, and thus their futures can be profoundly affected.
Research has shown that students who experience academic failure in middle school have a high likelihood of never graduating from high school. Thus, increasing students' academic motivation during the middle school years is paramount to ensuring they remain on the high school graduation path.
The saying “it takes a village to build a village” holds true when it comes to education. Communities which are cohesive and actively involved in the provision of education often show higher levels of academic achievement than those which are not. Social cohesion happens when there are strong and positive relationships between people from differing backgrounds in the schools, the workplace and other institutions within a local area. But it doesn't happen overnight – building, promoting and sustaining community cohesion is a long-term commitment.