2019 May 27: Spelling for 25 years of democracy

by Lulu Mhlana


On our recent trip to Umbelebele High School in Umlazi Q-Section, we had a spell check activity with our Grade 12 pupils. The spell check consisted of 25 words to commemorate 25 years of democracy in South Africa. The pupils were graced by the presence and wisdom of musician Winnie Khumalo, award-winning photographer Ruth Motau and Rethabile Khumalo– who is a former Idols participant and a musician.

The reality of the results that came from this some-what simple exercise is saddening. The words, which were being read out by Professor Sir Zanele Muholi included, amongst others- procrastination, enthusiasm and uniqueness.

In a perfect world, the average matric pupil shouldn’t struggle to spell these words, however there were pupils that couldn’t spell a single word correctly out of the 25 words. This is the reality of our education system 25 years into our democracy. The gap between multiracial and township schools in South Africa is shocking- from the infrastructure all the way up to the quality of education.

If we still have matric pupils who struggle with spelling ‘uniqueness’, and if it takes 32 tries for pupils to spell ‘archive’ correctly it raises questions on how many other things they are struggling with, and how many other things need intervention.

A majority of the pupils are not computer literate. This will not only pose future problems for the pupils, but also for South Africa as we are entering the 4th Industrial Revolution; which is the fourth major industrial era since the initial Industrial Revolution of the 18th century. This revolution is characterized by a combination of technologies, and it is necessary for the youth of South Africa to move with the times. However, it wasn’t all bad as we had three students who did well and won prizes.

The visit to Umbelebele High School forms part of the ongoing PhotoXP programme.

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