Education and knowledge is embedded in class relations, Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi has said.
“Under capitalism education reflects, reinforces and replicates the values and practices of capital, which is based on stratification and accumulation by one class at the expense of all society,” he said at a skills conference in Benoni.
“In capitalist society, education serves as an instrument to train labourers for the capitalist class.”
He said the dominant ideas in society were not neutral.
“They are primarily the views of classes…They do not intend to serve the common good, but are meant to be widely accepted, as if they were for the common good.”
He said the true origin of these ideas changed according to the interests of the dominant class in society.
He said the relevance of an education was often measured in relation to one’s productive capacity “as members of an army of workers in the employ of the capitalist class”.
Vavi said doors had opened up for the working class in South Africa but people were unable to walk through it.
“The education and training system is one of those critical doors we opened, and then did not walk through.
“Cosatu has banged very loudly on the doors; the doors were opened and we allowed the spoils to be usurped by capital and as a result our education system is in crisis.”
He said there must be a mindset change within the federation to succeed.
Among emerging markets, South Africa had the lowest labour force participation rate, he said, adding that poverty was continuing and redistribution of income worsened against the working class.
He said that income inequality was still “racialised” and had deepened within race groups.
“The means of production remain concentrated in white capitalist hands. The crisis in education persists and the quality of education is declining.”
He said poor children remained trapped in inferior education with inadequate infrastructure.
“Apartheid will never end and our people will never experience a real freedom.”
The conference heard that growth and development strategies were needed to address the long-term structural problems of unemployment.
“This conference must develop a programme that the congress can implement.”