South Africa- The promise and Challenge of Education

My last day in South Africa I had lunch with faculty from the University of KwaZulu-Natal in Durban. I had an enlightening conversation with Vusi Msiza a lecturer and current PhD student. The conversation was focused on what I prefer to call the South African miracle- the fact that South Africa was able to emerge from Apartheid with a bloody civil war.  Vusi helped me see how close South Africa came to a civil war and how the combination of luck and leadership prevented a downward spiral. We then turned to the recursive relationship between poverty and educational attainment. I made my argument that for South Africa to succeed in its lofty educational goals it needs a different approach. What I saw around the country was mostly a striving to reach 20th century panaceas. At the same time we both recognized the impact of economics on potential outcomes for kids as can be seen in the figure below.On the flight back I continued thinking about this as a design problem and came up with a few interesting ideas that emerged from my observations of education in South Africa.

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