Friday, July 4, 2014

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The Street Store: Charity Unplugged

In December 2013, the Charities Aid Foundation (CAF UK) released their latest world survey on giving, volunteering and helping strangers. The 'World Giving Index 2013' ranked South Africa 69 out of 135 countries surveyed. The full report published here http://www.cafonline.org/pdf/WorldGivingIndex2013_1374AWEB.pdf  found that South Africans are more likely to give of their time than they are of their money.

So why is it that we hold on tighter to our money than we do to our time, and of what benefit is this to charities who are in much need of both?
Well the simple answer is that as a nation, the infestation of corruption that has filtered into every aspect of our lives starting from our political leadership at the top down to our civil servants and ordinary citizens at the bottom has placed huge negative connotations on anything that relates to money and our dispensing of it. According to the Washington Post, only one-third of all monies donated to charities actually ends up with the poor, the homeless and the destitute. That's their best case scenario.
The bulk of the money, or at the very least 70% of it, goes toward running the charity (think admin, rentals, salaries, advertising etc). Put in Rands and Cents terms, that equates to just 30 cents of every Rand actually ending up with the people who need it most!
That right there is the problem I have with donating money to charities.

Not taking anything away from the really great work that charities do, and taking into account that the vast pool of funds they receive in donations does allow them to charter planes and ships laden with food, medical and other emergency supplies to relief and disaster zones, there is something to be said about seeing the smile upon the face of the person you've just helped out directly.
Gift Of The Givers is a fine example of a charity that has been built on a reputation of focusing on the needy and dismissing the greedy. They have been First Responders to natural disasters both in South Africa and across the world, and rival such giants in the field as the Red Cross and MSF (Medecins Sans Frontieres).

Many amongst us misconstrue the word 'Charity' and assume it to mean only 'the giving of money to the poor.'  There's a very good reason why the World Giving Index includes not only financial donations, but also donations of one's time as well as the act of helping a stranger. Some of the poorest countries in the world rank amongst the Top 50 nations on the index, justifiably so because their societies promote social donations of time and selfless help.

Those are the facts and they speak for themselves.
Naysayers would advocate restraint to any and all forms of monetary donations, citing dependency by those less fortunate on those doing the giving. I've read reports by credible journalists and NGO's who speak of the very culture of begging and how easily it can be manipulated by those out to feed their greed instead of a need.  The public ultimately becomes desensitized to the plight of the poor, the homeless and the destitute because there is the very real sense that our donations, although intended for a good cause, may simply be feeding a lifestyle of dependency on charity. The downside to this is that the woman at the robot desperate for a few rands to feed her family or pay her rent or do any one of a hundred things that her very survival depends upon, the very same things we would take for granted on any given day, is simply dismissed with a wave of our hands.

It was a breath of fresh air than to receive an invite to be part of an initiative that aimed to accomplish so many great things under one single humanitarian umbrella.
To be part of a cause that would clothe the homeless.
To restore the dignity and pride of those who have it stripped from them on a daily basis.
To actually see hopelessness and uncertainty be replaced by hope and gratitude on the smiling faces of the homeless.
To being an activator within my community, moving people toward active participation in a common cause.
To be able to achieve all of this without asking anybody to open their wallets, only their hearts and cupboards.

You may have heard of  The Street Store.
Their website found here http://thestreetstore.org/  explains exactly why they have such a huge fan base. People finally have the opportunity to get involved without ever wondering if their donations enriched any lives. They get to see the answer on the faces of the homeless. This is what I loved most about this initiative. It's not about the money. It's about having people who have been overlooked by society and stripped of all dignity, feel like they are worthy once again. The simple act of  'shopping' for free clothing on the day and being spoken to like a person, being attended to like a gentleman or a lady, being served upon by others just for this one day which they may never experience again, is more uplifting and rewarding to them than all the coins we could fling out our windows as we drive casually by at the robot.

The initiative was a huge success in Cape Town, as it's been in other parts of the world. 19 July see's it finally arriving in Johannesburg, and the response so far has been nothing short of exhilarating!

I chatted to Sumaya Hendricks, the organizer of this event and this is what she had to say.
"There are various elements of the project which I find appealing. Although the 'coolness' of the idea is attractive and draws people to the initiative, there is something much deeper to it. The people who we are going to be helping might be someone we ignored at a robot or perhaps condescendingly looked at as we felt they could do more to help themselves. Yet, at the street store, we are going to give them our time, a smile and treat them with the kind of respect they deserve but don't often get. They will become people in our eyes when often we see and treat them otherwise. So they will be helping us as much as we will be helping them - we have become so immune to poverty and hopefully this will help us to connect to those in need and act as a springboard to do more in our communities."

Remember that word 'Ubuntu'?
I know what I will be doing this Mandela Day.
Do you?



"What we do for ourselves dies with us. What we do for others and the world remains and is immortal."
Albert Pike (1809-1891)

Monday, June 23, 2014

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EFF Barking Up The Right Tree

On 16th May 2014, South Africa’s 5th democratic parliament received the list of 400 designated members for the National Assembly as well as the list of members for the Provincial Legislatures. Having elected the steering committee and Captain for SS South Africa, the nation has effectively placed the charting of a new and hopefully prosperous course through daunting waters in the hands of these 400 individuals over the next 5 years.

With the ruling party comfortably in the majority with 249 of those 400 seats, the question is really “How effective will the opposition be in keeping checks and balances to the ANC’s rule?”
The official opposition garnered 89 seats, but having been the official opposition since the 1999 general elections, one begins to wonder if there is any bite left in the DA bark.
With the arrival of the new kids on the block in the form of the EFF, I suspect we will suddenly become more enthusiastic and intrigued by the goings-on within parliamentary walls. For the first time since 1994, discussions around the water-cooler at offices across the country centered around the swearing-in of  members into parliament. While the focus may have been around the EFF dress-code, it is undeniable that the EFF know the right buttons to push to get people talking and to have the nation once again taking an interest in our countries politics.

With 25 seats to show for their first standing in the general elections, we would be foolish to write them off as a one-hit wonder. I seriously doubt that the EFF will follow in the footsteps of Cope, who came onto the scene with a bang and self-imploded with a fizzle. The EFF have certainly taken very many lessons from other political parties before them who may have started with the best of intentions, but allowed in-fighting and ego’s to be their ultimate downfall.

With the growing number of disgruntled ANC members feeling frustrated at not having an avenue to channel their frustration, either because their loyalty won’t allow them to vote for another party or because they simply choose to abstain from voting, many will now watch with interest at the questions being posed by the EFF. For many within the ruling party and even some amongst the official opposition, the EFF has presented a mouthpiece where once silent dissent was the only option. I suspect that on a vast array of issues, party politics dictated that members remain silent even if they held opposing views. I have no doubt that on issues such as the Arms Deal, HIV Aids and Thabo Mbeki’s recall, many within the ANC held very strong views which they were afraid to voice for fear of victimization or simply being left out in the cold by the majority. The same can be said for the DA. Lindiwe Mazibuko’s exit and subsequent media statements speaks volumes about the dissatisfaction within the party. Again I have no doubt that there are very many issues which polarizes DA members, but ultimately they choose to tow the party line.
When you’re part of a political behemoth which the ANC undoubtedly is, it’s easy to have your voice drowned out. Sometimes it takes the little guy on the outside to make people sit up and listen. Almost a case of David and Goliath one could imagine.

While many readers may feel that the EFF are nothing more than racists with no political backbone and too much of personal agendas, one cannot shy away from the fact that very many of the questions they have posed speak directly to the heart of their constituency.
Issues surrounding poverty, job creation and nationalization. Issues surrounding misuse of state funds and corruption. These are issues which have a direct effect on the masses, and the EFF have been quite successful in tapping into exactly what the masses want to be tabled and addressed.  The privileged few, the middle class and the employed would find their utterances to be no more than an annoyance or counter-productive howling; a fly that needs to be swatted at with contempt and disgust. The reality is that the issues they speak about resonate with a much larger and more attentive group; the youth and the unemployed, the disenfranchised and those scraping the bottom of the economic trough. When society needs to galvanize opposition to government policies or simply show dissatisfaction in the form of marches and strikes, it’s not the privileged few nor the middle-class we see in the front lines. It’s those fighting for living wages, or any wage at all. It’s that very demographic that the EFF speaks to. That demographic is in the majority, whether we accept this as fact or not.

When was the last time you saw a blue-collar middle-income or upper class individual standing at the front of a march or leading a strike or doing anything that would qualify him or her as an activist fighting a cause or standing up against injustice or oppression?
Hitting ‘Like’ on a Facebook cause or commenting on an online article doesn’t count.
The EFF know this.
They also know who their target audience is, and that target audience is getting increasingly hungry and angry.
Hungry and angry.
That’s a combination you never want to see in large numbers.

While you may not agree with many or all of their policies, one would be naive to think that working together with the EFF to find common ground and workable solutions and resolutions is an exercise in futility.
Take the example of what is currently being experienced in much of Europe. By governments consistently believing that they knew better and could dictate what was best for the general public, dissent and dissatisfaction saw the rise in many Right-Wing parties.

One cannot proclaim to be democratic and then balk at the idea of democracy when it no longer serves your objectives. European parliaments now face the prospect of having Right-Wing parties with even stronger right-wing extremist views than they were once comfortable with, now counted amongst their members. While we watch with interest at the unfolding of parliamentary events on our doorstep, the world will be watching with baited breath at the unfolding of events across Europe.

The idea of an EFF ruling party may be too far in the distance to register on the radar just yet, but the questions they pose certainly will make the ruling party uncomfortable. That on it’s own will have achieved the very objective of an opposition party. It’s when parties who govern believe that they can do so unquestioned and with impunity that democracy morphes into anarchy.

If nothing else, the EFF will certainly be barking up the right tree’s and for that reason alone, I for one am glad that we have them in parliament. I may not want them to rule, but I definitely want them making things uncomfortable for those within parliament who don’t like being questioned.

It’s time the ANC realized that parliaments doors are no longer a buffer between their arrogance and the citizens of this country.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

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On Being A Patriotic Yet Critical South African

My article as it appeared on News24, May 28, 2014
http://voices.news24.com/fareed-kaloo/2014/05/patriotic-yet-critical-south-african/

We have just witnessed another successful and peaceful election in our young democracy, and as South African’s living in an African continent so rife with political change marred by violence and death, we really do have much to celebrate.

While we may be collectively disgruntled by issues of crime, poverty, corruption and a host of social negatives, we should balance our critical outlook of our country with the many positives which justify our flying the patriotic flag well and truly high.

As a student of everything political and economic, I was fascinated to learn that we were one of the very few nations able to weather the storm of the recent economic collapse experienced by countries perceived to have been better equipped with far greater resources, wealth and experience. The economic downturn may have affected everybody, but the leadership we had in our then Finance Minister, Pravin Gordhan, was of a high enough caliber as to steer a course away from collapse toward economic stability. Allow the gravity of this accomplishment to sink in and applaud it for what it is, for this was no simple task.
For all the things our government got wrong, this was one feat they got right.

When Eliot Rodger opened fire at the University Of California killing 6 students and injuring 13, it brought back memories of the Columbine High School shooting in America in 1999. Since then there have been at least 31 shootings at schools across America, each involving fatalities. In stark contrast to America’s gun laws and the powerful NRA (National Rifle Association) gun lobby, South Africa has for the most part been able to stem the tide of rampant gun ownership. While the argument can certainly be made for the number of illegal guns in circulation and the percentage of crimes committed by firearms, we need to applaud the authorities and government for the firearms policy which attempts to regulate gun ownership. Many gun owners may feel that the systems and checks in place to attain a gain license are nothing more than another tax on citizens. The reality is that gun ownership in South Africa is nowhere near as easy a process as it is in America, where all one requires is a Social Security card and the filling in of a document. The rest is pretty much an over-the-counter purchase.
For all the things our government got wrong, this was another feat they got right.

In a recent panel discussion I was invited to on CII radio, I made mention of the fact that South African’s can be proud of our entrepreneurial spirit and the driving force behind each one of us that makes us want to overcome and succeed. We’ve shown this fighting spirit on the sporting field, in the political arena, across the business spectrum and in innovation. We’ve taken on the best in the world and come out on top on the cricket pitch, on the rugby field, in the swimming pool and in various other sporting codes. We gave the world the CAT scan, open heart surgery, barbed wire, the Kreepy Crawly and Pratley Putty amongst other innovations. We’ve shown that we are able to find solutions when presented with questions and obstacles.
While the world spends at least $1.7 Trillion annually on it’s military, we should not forget that South Africa is the only nation to have ever given up it’s nuclear weapons program voluntarily. We raise our voices each year when presented with alarming facts on what the rest of the world is doing with their nuclear weapons; the destructive power nation’s are trying to achieve in their ability to wipe countries and people off the planet. We should take the time to applaud our own country for it’s stance on nuclear weapons.
While being critical of others, this is a shining example of why we should be patriotic.

The next time we complain about the price of petrol and how we’re getting screwed over by our government or the Ministry Of Energy, perhaps we should take a critical look at how exactly our fuel price at the pumps compares to the rest of the world. You may be surprised to learn that a recent study of 160 developed nations in the world placed South Africa at, wait for it, number 80 on the list of least to most expensive. Have a look at the global index here http://www.globalpetrolprices.com/gasoline_prices/ and you may want to rethink that move to Australia, New Zealand or the UK.

So how do we fare as a nation on the social arena, more specifically with regards to marriages and divorce?
As a barometer of how a countries citizens are engaging each other on a happiness index, and how well our social and moral fabric has integrated into our homes, many regard divorce rates as a good indicator. Since general contentment and happiness outdoors leads to general contentment and happiness indoors, or at least it should, the marriage and divorce arena is a great litmus test. With the release of the latest stats on this topic from StatsSA, a few interesting details stood out. The highest number of divorces were recorded in the 30-40 age group, with 49% of plaintiffs being women. Huge increases in divorce rates were shown in both the Indian and Coloured communities, with an average increase across all colour lines of 23%.

How does this compare to the rest of the world?
Out of 92 countries polled, South Africa was 64 on the list. While we may not be doing as well as Brazil or even China, we’re certainly not as bad as the US, UK, New Zealand or Australia.
Have a look at the list of divorce rates per population here http://www.divorcemag.com/statistics/statsWorld.shtml
An interesting factor in divorce trends worldwide is the socio-economic element. With the ever increasing need of double-income households, both men and women or both spouses for LGBT relationships are playing an active role in the work environment. For many couples, this has seen an interesting dynamic where the female or ‘wife’ in the relationship is bringing home the lions share of household income. Stress and Finance has always featured highly in matters of divorce, now more than ever.
A common approach by psychologists and marriage counselors is to focus on the positives and show couples the many elements within their union that they should be grateful for. The belief that a current situation will get better is the beginning of the journey toward contentment.
One of the many things we have every right to be content about is the beauty of the country we call home, and the amazing people we share it with.

In the final analysis, let us never forget that South Africa gave the world it’s greatest icon in Nelson Mandela and presented every budding democracy a blueprint for the finest constitution ever penned.

While there are a great many things to be critical of as South Africans, there are an equally great many things to be proud and patriotic about.

Viva South Africa Viva!
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Britain Under Attack!

My article that appeared in News24, May 03, 2014.
http://voices.news24.com/fareed-kaloo/2014/05/britain-attack/

This week saw British folk in uproar as their values and culture came under attack, not by an invading army or marauding pirates, not even by suicide bombers or nuclear threats.

The enemy as you may already have feared, is the humble kebab!

So serious is the threat that patriotic British defenders of culture and all things wet and gloomy have garnered over 40000 petitions on their website http://www.britainfirst.org/boycott-subway/ . As the website name suggests, these brave and clearly hungry for ham Soldiers Of Sandwiches will stop at nothing to defend the honour and pride of the humble pork. The fact that the enemy in this war, the Subway sandwich franchise, has 200 ham-free stores in predominantly Muslim regions out of their total 1500 stores nationwide seems worthy of a Fatwa against Subway.

Why should decent hard-working ham-loving British men, women and children be deprived of their ham sandwich simply because the demographic of the neighbourhood they live in prefers their meat halaal? What is wrong with food giants who spend millions on research and development and product marketting that they have missed completely the barbarity of the halaal slaughtering process? Are local companies like Woolworths and Checkers and Pick n’ Pay hoodwinked into believing that the rigorous process all meat has to go through before being  declared halaal is actually very stringent in standards and quality? Do they not realise the sham that is actually totally barbaric? Surely someone should point out to them that other types of meat which doesnt include animal slaughter (presumably the type where chicken and beef are planted as seeds, watered and harvested in a humane manner) would serve the consumer and their armchair-humanitarian beliefs better.

As a consumer, driving through a predominantly Muslim neighbourhood such as Laudium, or Azaadville, or Roshnee, I should totally expect to find stores catering to pork and ham lovers. After all, everybody knows that business folk are a rather stupid bunch who never do basic concepts like Feasibility Studies or Demographic Research. Thats the very reason why the number 1 Kelvinator freezer store is in Alaska. Eskimo’s desire a good freezer as much as your average muslim family desire a good pork roast on a Sunday.
With all the worthy causes to be fighting and championing throughout the world… poverty, sickness, wars and famine, do these British folk honestly believe that driving a further 10 miles to a store that does serve ham is so great an effort that it requires national and international protest? Really people?

I will defend the right of any man, woman or child to enjoy his or her ham sandwich.
If the store of his choice does not serve ham for whatever reason, I wil defend his right to drive to a store which does.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

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Deny And Discredit: A Slippery Slope For The ANC

My opinion piece published on News24
April16, 2014
http://voices.news24.com/fareed-kaloo/2014/04/deny-discredit-slippery-slope-anc/

In the time it takes most political parties to entrench their policies and programs into a nations operating system, the ANC has managed to go from being the 'Default Browser' to a virus-infected users cesspool.
Not so long ago, we were dancing in the streets and celebrating a party that belonged to all; a party we were proud to call our own; a party who's leaders led by example and inspired young and old to work together toward the brighter future we were promised. I remember where I was the day I stood in line to cast my first vote in our new democracy. Filled with hope and brimming with pride, the energy of the thousands of voters waiting in line was electric. Victory for the ANC at the ballot was palpable. The only question was how great the winning margin would be.

Fast-forward 20 years and suddenly the very party we once embraced as our own, has degenerated into a pariah we now distance ourselves from.

In truth the rot may have first been exposed during the Mbeki era with the AIDS debacle and the arms deal saga. The warning lights were slowly lighting up, and the nation was starting to sit up and take notice.
Cue the Zuma administration and suddenly it seemed like corruption, nepotism and every other ugly known to politics was in free-fall. Nobody within the Zuma administration was willing to stand up strongly or loudly enough to stop the rot, and when we looked toward the leader himself we found a President so wrapped in securing his party foothold that he forgot the people he served. It suddenly seemed as though the needs of the people became secondary and the desire to cement ranks within the ANC became of utmost importance. Claims of tribalism and factionalism had overpowered discussion on service delivery and job creation. The only jobs being created were for the politically connected few within the walls of parliament. The only services being delivered were the tenders to friends and cronies. Rome for all intents and purposes was burning while inside it's political chambers, orgies of debauchery and opulence were the order of the day.
While the citizens searched for leadership and guidance, the leaders were getting drunk on the public's taxes and patting themselves on the back. When the voices of dissent from the public grew too loud, the leaders would come out and scold the people as though they were little children not worthy of sitting at the adults table.

Leaders like Gwede Mantashe, Cyril Ramaphosa, Fikile Mbalula and Jackson Mthembu have recently come out in scathing attack at anyone who disagrees with the ANC.
No longer are we allowed to simply voice opinion and have it digested for morsels of truth. The danger of having dissent or dialogue by a countries citizens being shut down by a ruling party is that without even noticing, the line between democracy and dictatorship is very quickly crossed. In a true democracy, government would and should engage the people to resolve disputes and conflict. Government must never forget that it is ultimately the people who have voted them in power. It is when government assumes they hold the whip to flog the nation, instead of being the servants of the people, that the foundations of democracy begin to unravel. As citizens we have every right to show dissatisfaction in our government. For the ruling party or any of it's supporters to suggest otherwise is to denounce the very thing ANC stalwarts like Oliver Thambo, Govan Mbeki, Nelson Mandela and others fought for.

It is the duty of every citizen to defend the constitution and denounce wholesale corruption instituted by the state. For the ANC to attempt to discredit independent bodies like the Public Protectors office and oversight committees who are critical of their actions and policies, one has to wonder what their definition of a Public Protector or oversight committee really is. Would they prefer a Public Protector who does everything but protect the interest of the public? Would the ANC prefer oversight committees whose sole purpose is to overlook any ANC wrongdoing? Would Gwede Mantashe, Jackson Mthembu, Fikile Mbalula, Blade Nzimande and others prefer a robust media that reports on any and all shortcomings and misdemeanors of all political parties, except the ANC?
How arrogant must the leadership be if they expect the public to simply swallow without question the fodder they're being fed?

For Blade Nzimande to say Jacob Zuma built Nkandla with his own money is an insult to our intelligence.  Really Blade? Just 4 years ago our president was singing poverty. Are we expected to believe that President Jacob Zuma's salary of R2.7million per annum was so well invested as to reap a 5000% return in 4 short years? Really Blade? Zuma's investors could teach the worlds most successful investor, Warren Buffet, a thing or two! I wonder why they never applied the same investment principles to Aurora mines, Eskom, SABC and a whole string of other failures the state had it's finger in?
Are we supposed to believe Gwede Mantashe when he says that economic growth has declined in the Western Cape, against all credible reports and statistics? I've never been a supporter of the DA but even one as critical of the party as I knows that the Western Cape is the best run province in the country. Even one as critical as I cannot accept Gwede's views on the Western Cape.
Are we supposed to accept Fikile Mbalula's views that the public are not allowed to show dissent at their president by booing him? Really Fikile? History has shown that booing is probably the mildest form of showing dissatisfaction against leadership. We come from a political history of brick-throwing, necklacing and molotov-cocktails. I would think booing is probably the most respectful show of dissatisfaction, considering our past.

While all political parties may be guilty to some degree of denialism and discrediting those who highlight shortcomings within parties, it is precisely because the ANC is currently the ruling party that the spotlight will be placed squarely on them.
If the leadership within the ruling party cannot understand and accept that it is the sign of a healthy democracy for citizens to criticize their leaders, than I am afraid the political school they have graduated from is in worse condition than our current education system.
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Department Of Education: Policies Or Fallacies?

My opinion piece published on News24
April 07, 2014

"Our vision is of a South Africa in which all our people have access to lifelong learning, as well as education and training, which will, in turn, contribute towards improving the quality of life and building a peaceful, prosperous and democratic South Africa.
Our mission is to provide leadership with respect to provinces, districts and schools in the establishment of a South African education system for the 21st century."
The Vision and Mission statement of the Department Of Basic Education, South Africa.
By any standards, these are high goals to achieve for a third-world education system wanting to attain first-world success.
The Department Of Basic Education is more well known for it's recent failures than it is for it's many accomplishments. The textbook saga will unfortunately always follow Minister Angie Motshekga irrespective of the sterling work her department has achieved in other spheres of education. Speak of a failure on the part of our education leadership and the topic becomes synonymous with Minister Angie Motshekga. Speak about ASIDI, Dinaledi or NSNP (National School Nutrition Programme) and very few have heard about them or know what they are all about.
The same can be said for Minister Of Higher Education And Training, Blade Nzimande. While many will remember his department for their policy of a 30% matric pass requirement, the commendable work his department has done with SETA's (Sector Education And Training Authority) and VCET (Vocational And Continuing Education And Training) largely goes unnoticed.

With all these great policies in place for learners, beginning at the basic education level and working their way through the system until they emerge post-matric hopefully armed with their glossy and full-of-promise certificates, one has to wonder whether governments objectives have been achieved.
From the very outset, the private schooling system and the public schooling system have set very different values with vastly different playing-fields which never level themselves out, no matter how much we'd like to believe otherwise. The public or government schooling system starts at age 6 in Grade 0 as compulsory, and age 4-5 in Grade R as optional. For all intents and purposes, this is when a learner entering a government school will have his or her first interaction with a teacher. Compare that to your average private schooling learner, who's first interaction with a teacher is usually around the age of 3. That's a three year headstart on learning, albeit at it's most basic level.

Once in the learning stream, the real process of moulding these young minds to become leaders and champions of society really begins. It is in these formative years that the building blocks are set in place for future success. For too long the definition of success held by government was simply that a learner attains a matric certificate. The bar was lowered and standards were drastically dropped in order for government to achieve this goal. Some believed that this presented a win-win situation for the ANC, as it showed an increase in learners passing matric irrespective of the 30% pass debate, while simultaneously 'dumbing down' the youth to create a nation of sheep instead of young lions. Sheep prefer to be led, and simply follow the herd. Lions are independant and fearless, and their roar is backed by their bite. An entirely different conversation for the conspiracy theorist, but an interesting one nonetheless.

The extent of the problem becomes really evident once learners have completed matric and are now ready to embark on their tertiary education. For those with university entrance passes, the choice is quite simple; a university degree or diploma. For those with anything less than a university pass entrance, there are FET (Further Education And Training) colleges, SETA's  and trade schools. Remember that grades 10-12 are already regarded as non-compulsory in the education departments policy, as these fall under the FET banner.
With many universities and colleges complaining about such basics as literacy levels amongst learners exiting the higher education stream, the bottle-neck seams to favour those learners coming from private schools with higher literacy rates and better grades. The problem is further compounded by hard-working and deserving students from disadvantaged backgrounds who qualify for bursaries, who invariably would have attended public schools, and who want to now enter universities or colleges. This places a huge burden on tertiary institutions who want to produce the best and brightest minds within those short years a degree requires. By adding a bridging year to a 4 year course simply to attend to issues of literacy, learners are burdened with an additional year of education which requires funding. Many are already financially stretched to simply cover their current tuition costs.

The recent SABEC (South African Basic Education Conference) held at the end of March is an indication that government realizes the failures in some of their policies, and hopefully plans to charter a new course through our existing education quagmire. Whether these new policies and the shift in attitude will have a positive effect remains to be seen. It takes an average of 12 years, from the time a learner enters the education stream to the time they leave with a matric certificate, to fully assess the competency of any changes implemented now. If these new policies and changes were undertaken with the mindset of a Fortune 500 CEO, the very first step would be to test the system by increasing the matric pass rate drastically in 12 years, while simultaneously implementing stringent quality control measures at the end of each year starting from the next batch of Grade 0's entering the stream.

While the future may look bleak for those learners currently in the Grade 0-12 stream, governments acknowledgment of the problem and addressing it with a serious view to realistic solutions offers a glimmer of hope to tomorrow's leaders.

Monday, April 7, 2014

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Here Comes Jacob Boo Boo

My post which appeared on News24, 01 April 2014
News24: Here Comes Jacob Boo Boo

Remember when President Jacob Zuma was booed at the memorial service of Nelson Mandela at FNB Stadium in December of 2013?

My initial reaction was that this was highly disrespectful to the occasion, being Madiba’s memorial service, and also highly disrespectful to the legacy which Nelson Mandela was leaving behind. While the world watched in awe as we paid tribute to the life and achievements of one of its finest sons and statesmen, it also witnessed the culmination of sheer frustration being expressed by many at the stadium toward President Jacob Zuma and his ruling party, the ANC.

Debates raged on for weeks regarding the booing, and the ANC came out all guns blazing as they criticized the boo-ers.
While many may have agreed with the act of boo-ing, we also felt it was neither the time nor the place to show dissatisfaction at the president.

Fast-forward barely three months later and President Jacob Zuma gets booed once again as he walks onto the pitch at FNB Stadium for the post-match ceremony after Bafana Bafana played Brazil in an international friendly. This time it was Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula who came out in Zuma’s defence, even calling the boo-ers “hooligans and cowards who’s plans are infused in Satanism at best”.

All this boo-ing of our President and subsequent criticism from the ANC of those doing the boo-ing got me thinking about this act of disgruntlement. How frustrated and disappointed must the people be to get to the point of actively boo-ing their President in public? How negative must public perception be that the nation would vent its anger every chance they got at the country’s leader? If people feel that they have the right to vent their frustrations in this manner, what would have set the precedent for this kind of dissent? If the ANC are so critical of this act, surely it’s political origin could not have come from within its ranks? Why would they demonize and criticize an act if the party had previously condoned it on previous occasions? Had they condoned it on previous occasions?

Then I remembered the infamous Women’s Day rally in Utrecht, KwaZulu-Natal,  in August of 2005 where then Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka was publicly boo-ed by none other than Jacob Zuma supporters. This after Jacob Zuma had been relieved of his position as Deputy President to face charges of corruption. I don’t recall the ANC being highly critical of Zuma’s supporters boo-ing Mlambo-Ngcuka, their Deputy President back then. The SABC was even taken to task for not having reported this incident.  The public broadcaster blamed the lack of footage on a freelance cameraman who arrived late. No surprises there.
In May of 2009, ex-President Thabo Mbeki was boo-ed as his arrival was announced at the Union Buildings in Pretoria. Once again, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka was not spared the wrath of sections of the crowd.

This form of venting dissatisfaction and frustration has been around for hundreds of years, and with the rise of social media networks it simply means that the public has quicker access to and immediate commentary on such acts as and when it happens. Twitter exploded instantaneously with news on each occasion of Jacob Zuma’s boo-ings at FNB Stadium .

So I find it rather disingenuous of the ruling party to tell us that showing dissent and exercising our freedom of speech by boo-ing that which we don’t agree with as satanic, cowardly and disrespectful. Where were these chastising voices when the people being boo-ed were out of favor with the leadership? I don’t recall Cyril Ramaphosa or Fikile Mbalula lambasting those members of the ANC boo-ing  Mbeki or Mlambo-Ngcuka and others? I don’t recall the people doing the boo-ing then, being referred to as ‘hooligans’.

If the ANC accepts that this act of boo-ing is par for the course when other political parties are on the receiving end, then they must accept when it happens to members of it’s own party too. If they condone the boo-ing of Helen Zille and Patricia De Lille, then they should accept the same treatment for President Jacob Zuma. I don’t accept the argument that he should be exempt from being boo-ed simply because he is the president. By that logic he is also the person who presides over his members and allows them to boo members of parliament unchecked. For goodness sake the MP’s themselves boo each other in the house. Just ask Terror Lekota, who by now must think his middle name is ‘Boo’!

I’m neither pro-Zuma nor pro-Mbeki, but I do believe that the ANC needs to stop treating the youth, the public at large, and anybody showing dissatisfaction with their leadership, as kids at a kindergarten. You reap what you sow. You cannot change the rules when the game is going against you.
I suspect that in the run-up to the elections, we are going to have a lot more boo-ing by a lot more disgruntled citizens. It’s become a fragment of our political quilt, much like toyi-toying, and parties need to accept that the people will be heard, one way or another.

 

The Kaloo report Ripped by @mirfaan © 2010