The Value of Education

By Mayuri Raja and Gavin Kennard

“Education will open doors where none seem to exist” (Mathabane 123).


Education is...

the act or process of imparting or acquiring general knowledge, developing the powers of reasoning and judgment, and generally of preparing oneself or others intellectually for mature life
Learning for All


  • If all students in low income countries left school with basic reading skills, 171 million people could be lifted out of poverty, thereby cutting global poverty by 12%.
  • One extra year of schooling increases an individual’s earnings by up to 10%.
  • One additional school year can increase a woman’s earnings by 10% to 20%.
Part Two of Kaffir Boy is titled "Path to Knowledge", which shows just how important understanding the value of education is to understanding the novel. Understanding the value of education adds insight as to why Mark's mom was so eager to get Mark in school, explains the reason why black education was inferior to white education, and reveals Mark's secret to success.


Prevents Formation of Misconceptions

“It was through watching such movies that I first began to form ideas about the nature of white people… I naturally saw movies as one way to get a glimpse of that world; how it was structured, what kinds of people lived there; and how they functioned from day to day. To me the illusions and fantasy of the movies were the stark reality of a world I was forbidden to enter” (Mathabane 54).

“…soon I began walking around with the paranoic attitude that every strange thing that no adult could explain was the ‘deeds of witches’” (Mathabane 100).

Helps with Employment

“She told me that… she was tired of being turned away from jobs at the Indian place because she could not read or write…” (Mathabane 67).

Empowers a Person

“Another thing that awed me was their almost total lack of information outside their milieu. They never stopped asking us about goings-on in the city and about the world of white people. Even though I had never been beyond the confines of Alexandra to know what Johannesburg was really like, I told them secondhand stories about it. They believed me completely, and thought me vastly knowledgeable; I felt superior to the lot of them” (Mathabane 87).

Satisfies Curiosity

“Perhaps it was stubbornness which made me persist asking questions I knew would not be answered, phrasing them differently each time; perhaps it was some inborn insatiable curiosity to know that made me keep a mental tally of all unanswered questions, and made me construe my mother’s reluctance to answer them as proof of their significance and relevance to life as it really was, as opposed to how she, my father, and all the black people about me saw it, and wanted me and other children to see it” (Mathabane 94).

Saves Lives

“‘He shunned school and instead, grew up to live by the knife. And the same knife he lived by ends his life’” (Mathabane 127).

Offers Opportunities

“‘I want you to have a future, child,' my mother said. 'And, contrary to what your father says, school is the only means to a future... Your father didn't go to school... that's why he's doing some of the bad things he's doing. Things like drinking, gambling, and neglecting his family. He didn't learn how to write; therefore, he can't find a decent job. Lack of education has narrowly focused his education will get you a decent job. If you can read and write you'll be better off than those of us who can't... I believe that an education is the key you need to open up a new world and a new life for yourself... It is the only key that can do that, and only those who seek it earnestly and perseveringly will get anywhere... Education will open doors where none seem to exist. It'll make people talk to you, listen to you and help you; people who otherwise wouldn't bother. It will make you soar, like a bird lifting up into the endless blue sky, and leave poverty, hunger, and suffering behind. It'll teach you to learn to embrace what's good and shun what's bad and evil. Above all, it'll make you a somebody in this world. It'll make you grow up to be a good and proud person,’” (Mathabane 133-134).

Discussion Questions

1. How might Mark's life have been different if his parents had gone to school?

2. Did the white people in South Africa understand the value of education? Did the blacks?

3. Does a person have to go to school to be educated?

4. How might the plot of other books we've read this year have changed if the characters were educated?

5. Why do some people take education for granted? How can appreciation for the value of education be increased?

Works Cited

"Learning for All." Youtube. Youtube, 11 April 2011. Web. 14 February 2013.


Mathabane, Mark. Kaffir Boy. New York City: Macmillan, 1986. Print.

"The Value of Education." Global Partnership for Education. Global Partnership for Education, 5

February 2013. Web. 14 February 2013. <