LIFE 9/9

May 23, 2024

OPINION: What education does not teach us

Mamokgethi Phakeng
Photo: Supplied

Growing up in a working-class family in South Africa, I had no chance of a decent life but education changed all that and now I am living my best life. But truth be told, there are a lot of important stuff to know that school does not teach and if you grow up in a working class family, the chances of learning the stuff that you need to know to succeed in this world are very slim.



This is the reason why some of the well qualified young people do not get jobs because as the employers would say, 'they lack the soft skills'. Google describes soft skills as, 'general traits not specific to any job, helping employees excel in any workplace. They include communication, teamwork and adaptability, often termed transferable or interpersonal skills. They're essential for professional success. Well, I can tell you for free that no school and no university course teaches that! Many people learn the stuff at home, especially in middle-class homes. If you are working class, then forget it! Of course, a good Life Orientation school teacher or business communications university lecturer might teach soft skills.



If you are a mathematics major or studying civil engineering you will, no doubt, you learn these skills only when your start working - that is, if you are lucky enough to get a job. In his book, The Sandman, Vol. 9: The Kindly Ones, Neil Gaiman shares his list of things that education does not teach, "I've been making a list of the things they don't teach you at school. They don't teach you how to love somebody. They don't teach you how to be famous. They don't teach you how to be rich or how to be poor. They don't teach you how to walk away from someone you don't love any longer. They don't teach you how to know what's going on in someone else's mind. They don't teach you what to say to someone who's dying. They don't teach you anything worth knowing." Truth be told, there is a whole lot more that education does not teach us. But should education be teaching us all these things? Really? Well in a country such as South Africa, the consequences of not knowing some of these things can lead to unemployment or being deemed unemployable. So, we cannot just leave this to fate! What do you think? And can you think of things that your education did not or could not teach you?


Mamokgethi Phakeng is a businesswoman, former Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cape Town and columnist for Zimoja


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