By Gaby Ndongo (4 mins read)
The word mensch should not apply to all academics; you will understand why I say so very soon. Not a while ago, a lecturer, during one of the early afternoon classes at my university, sought to numerically make his students understand the topic at hand.
It was a theme of a second semester module. One needing several statistical sets of evidence to validate and strengthen the claims in the PowerPoint presentation.
He spoke as confidently and candidly as he could, making use of the figures to back up his statements. From afar, I then heard a student asking a class mate, “How does he remember all of these stats?”
In fact, he did not accurately remember all of them. Some were augmented to a level where one of the students was persuaded to Google if what the lecturer said are true. This student found out that the lecturer made a few numerical errors by large margins.
Although one may argue to say that the errors are the results of the academic not preparing for the lecture, a solutionist will table something along the lines of “He did what he had to do at that time”.
In this case, a lie had to be told. No. Lies were told, and they were noticeable gaffes. By so doing, he maintained the required level of authority needed to control a class of more than seventy students.
How is this possible?
By telling those lies, he projected a knowledgeable stance, which supports his positional authority as being a gatekeeper of knowledge within this area of study.
Considering that the correct statistics were found in Google by a ‘puzzled’ student, it can always be counterargued that the internet source could have been inaccurate or outdated.
But the lecturer’s statistics are from ‘trustworthy sources’ – you know, like those ten-years-old reports that are constantly recycled in PowerPoint slides.
In short, numerical errors, which are essentially lies, were necessary ingredients for this lecture.
Such a scenario made me to question positional authorities: lecturers, deans, and the like. The question is oriented towards how many lies are students and other stakeholders sold on a day to day basis to keep the system, which lecturers and deans form part, alive.
A degree makes live ‘better’
We are told, “A tertiary education qualification will improve your chances of employment.” This is valid to some extent.
A total of 9% of graduates are unemployed and more broadly, an overall of 2.2% of South Africa’s 6,5 million unemployed people are graduates (an equivalent of 143 000 young people), according to Stats SA’s official unemployment rate in the second quarter of 2019.
But no one informs us about the full picture.
In the recent chats I had with colleagues who opted for an honours degree in Journalism, a familiar phrase coined by most are along the line, “During this year, I’ve learnt much at my winter-recess internship than at school”.
Yet, it is the same degree that was lauded about for years as a qualification that will set its students apart from the rest. How are we being set apart when we are learning little to nothing at times?
For other graduates who chose full-time employment after obtaining their undergraduate degrees, they often say, “I am not being treated right at work”, “The money they are paying me is small”, or “These guys at work think I know nothing because I am from university”.
The latter consists of some truths. One of the truths was penned in the National Treasury’s economic rescue plan released for discussion in August: ‘Economic transformation, inclusive growth, and competitiveness: Towards an Economic Strategy for South Africa’.
It acknowledges that educational institutions, such as universities, do not train their students in line with the aptitudes and insights needed in the market. The result is therefore skills shortage in the various sectors of the economy.
To address such a problem in the short-term, the plan states that visa requirements for skilled migrants should be relaxed and hopefully it will attract more professionals into the South African workforce.
From a long-term perspective, we need to enhance “the relevance of (South Africa’s) education systems by better aligning learning outcomes to labour market needs”, according to the plan.
If this is the case, is the current education we are being sold mostly a set of outdated information (and)or lies? You tell me. TOJ
Writing by Gaby Ndongo. Editing by Hendrica Nkoana. Feature image courtesy to Pixabay.