By Pretty Shongwe | Urban Agenda
For many people around the world, the phrase “education is freedom” is more than a motto; it is a life goal. You also don’t have to live outside of America to understand the struggle of striving for a better and brighter future.
According to the Constitutional Rights Foundation, while education may not be a “fundamental right” under the Constitution, the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment requires that when a state establishes a public school system, no child living in that state may be denied equal access to schooling.
I agree that education should not be a privilege, but a right. Every child should be given the chance to picture themselves holding tight to their high school diploma with proud smiles on their faces, knowing that they worked hard and reaping their rewards.
“Education is the most powerful weapon in which you can use to change the world,” said Nelson Mandela, former president of South Africa and a 1993 Nobel Peace Prize laureate.
The United States Census Bureau reports that in October 2013, 25.9 percent of the entire population ages 3 and older, or 78 million people, were enrolled in school. But many schools in this country are underfunded, especially in poor communities.
Three years ago on May 24, 2013, I arrived in the United States from the Republic of South Africa with many hopes and dreams of a better future. I knew that America was a land of opportunity, and I wasn’t going to let my chance go by.
There are numerous differences between educational systems in South Africa and the United States. In South Africa, the student-teacher ratio in most public schools is so overwhelming that teachers would rather pass a failing student than have them repeat the class. The question of who is responsible for the failing students has been attributed to the fact that many of the students’ families are uneducated themselves and therefore are unable to assist them with their homework. Many public schools also lack sufficient funding to provide updated textbooks, install technology and employ more teachers.
According to South Africa’s Centre for Development and Enterprise, “one of the greatest challenges facing the South African education system is the production of sufficient qualified, competent teachers, who can provide quality teaching for all school subjects and phases.” Passionate and creative teachers who challenge their students are key in a good education but it’s difficult to teach a child who does not want to be taught.
Since I’ve lived in Pennsylvania, I have noticed that the government does not prioritize education. If it did, lawmakers would not have taken so long to pass the Act 84 of 2016, which requires them to adequately fund public schools. Some schools in this state have similar problems like South Africa.
Also, while the U.S. and R.S.A. differ in many ways, they have a common issue which is people of color, specifically black people, do not have the same educational opportunities.
According to a recent analysis of federal data by The Atlantic magazine, in most major American cities, nearly all African-American and Hispanic students attend public schools, where a majority of their classmates qualify as poor or low-income. This fact stands true for black students studying in South Africa as well.
The truth of the matter is every student deserves a quality education regardless of their racial background or family income.
I don’t believe that anyone can put a price on knowledge, and therefore education should be affordable. I think it’s the government’s responsibility to find new ways to educate its people, and it is the people’s job is to take advantage of the education provided.
“Until we get equality in education we won’t have an equal society,” said Sonia Sotomayor, a U.S. Supreme Court associate justice.
When education is treated as a right for everyone, endless positive opportunities await people in society.