Will Education in South Africa ever speak to the African Child?

Let us all begin by agreeing that our past was bad, racist, anti-progressive and has killed much of our potential as a country. Only one race benefited from education then, the whites.

It will not help us at all looking at Bantu education today, since no one who studied Bantu education is still at school. It has been almost twenty years now, and when we discuss education, our discussion will be focused on education in the new dispensation of democracy. By so saying, I am not suggesting that the effects of Bantu education can still be seen today, but that is a topic for another day.

I am finding it hard to understand why Basic Education and Higher Education are separate ministries? Higher Education exists because of Basic Education, and what one does invariably affects the other, so I would have expected a sound single Education department to deal with the state of education. But we have two.

Politics aside, when will education in this country become relevant to the needs and aspirations of an African child?

Some of you might swear and make statistical arguments why an African-centred education is not desirable in a global economy, and the likes, but all these arguments are nonsense.

Starting with Basic Education, what are the subjects that pupils can take? Languages, Economics, Business Economics, Accounting, Maths, History, Geography, and the like. Since some quarters of our society see red every time it is said science and technology should be taught in our languages, for now let us exclude science from the discussion. Is there any other reason why the rest of these subjects are not taught in our languages?

Let me make two examples to stress my point. Let us take Economics as an example. Is there any reason at all why Economics content is not based on the African economies? Even today pupils still learn economic histories of European and American societies. What is wrong with providing an economic history of Africa when learning Economics? Wouldn’t that provide pupils a better chance to be good in the subject since what is being taught is what they know and can identify with? Wouldn’t that allow them to further develop economic theories when they reach varsity level since all these would be part of their everyday lives?

On History. Can anyone tell me what is significance of teaching our children the history of Europe and America? While none about Africa is provided? Are you telling me that twenty years into democracy we have failed to make changes even in small matters like these? When a Mosotho child is taught History at school and is told about all the European figures and states, none of which they know, how alienated is that child? Do Africans lack a history that we do not teach African History in our schools?

I must say that our government has let me down on education. Instead, they have gone all out to import education models that have not been tried anywhere else in the world. How much would it have cost us to simply prescribe African History in schools? How much effort would be required to bring the vast collection of history books written by Africans about Africa into our schools?

Before I talk about Higher Education, which is mysteriously no longer Tertiary Education, allow me to pose a simple question. What is the purpose of education, formal and informal, in society?

Our Higher Education seems to be worse than Basic Education in its content. I am currently a student at UNISA studying for a BA with majors in Linguistics and Theory of Literature. Initially, Read the full story

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The End of Books?

As an author who is self-published, I find myself at pains to make a choice to finally take the leap of faith into e-readers!

Since my professional background is software development, one would have thought that I would embrace just about any gadget that comes along, but nay.

My reason for not accepting e-readers in their variations is quite simple really. I own a few laptops and a netbook. If I count the gadgets I own, it does not make sense for me to invest in another of those. I have three laptops, one netbook and a smart phone. Now there is an e-reader and tablet to consider. These things are just too much. How on earth am I going to use all of them?

So I still do not own an e-reader nor a tablet. I think people bought these things without really thinking about their use. Tables are for people who want to surf the web and maybe read emails, that’s it. I am not in that category at all. You see, I write a lot on my machines, so a keyboard is a must for me. These touch screens just won’t cut it.

But as an author, I have my work available as e-books, yet I refuse to use e-readers!

What is the impact of these gadgets on our reading population? I have found that people who actually love reading, love Read the full story

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Computing in Mother Tongue

For all intents and purposes, many of South Africa’s indigenous languages are listed among the world’s most endangered languages. What this means in simple terms is that many of our languages will most likely become extinct in the near future. This, despite the fact we are the majority in this country, yet our majority languages face the danger of disappearing because people elevate English at the expense of their own languages.

I used to think it ridiculous to think that our languages can die! But having been involved in several language projects, I am more than alarmed at the status of our languages.

Many African intellectuals have given us many reasons why the state of affairs, not forgetting that they have not included themselves as the primary proponents of our dying languages because to them English is status. Many of these intellectuals cannot even construct a full sentence in their mother tongue.

There have been a number of initiatives aimed at improving the status and use of African languages, yet many of these projects have failed simply because African people see no value in their own languages. They would rather struggle to express themselves in a foreign language.

Recently, I was asked to give a basic translation into any South African language of my choosing. While I take pride in my language competence and consider myself an expert in my own language, I was reminded of how shameful our people are. When efforts like these come our way, many people, instead of being honest to say they are not equipped to translate to our languages, will happily give substandard work! These are people who themselves hardly speak the language, yet they find it normal to translate into a language they do not speak. This trend is the same with professional translators. While many may have degrees in translation and communication, many simply just translate nonsense.

The result is Read the full story

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Will God Save the Black Nation?

I have always known that religion is our biggest problem in Africa and the diaspora. Historically, I dare say the black nation has stagnated since the arrival of foreign religions, hereby termed world religions.

Creativity and innovation has been at the forefront of every milieu of African states, right from creation as per our various folklore stories.

This creativity can be seen in the way of art, performances and most notably in how dynamic our languages were then. The development and expansion of African languages was at its peak before the arrival of colonists.

Every generation had its own set of language features, deeply rooted in creativity and what today is termed scientific study of language, linguistics.

Our great Ancestors were great innovators – their lives were structured according to their own inventions, such as stone grinders, distillers, granaries, tools of the trade and unique farming methods.

It was during the times of our African Ancestors that medicine was developed to a stage where all African nations fully understood and managed almost all known illnesses and ailments. Basic medicine was understood by all, while specialised medicine was a speciality of medicine people. In this way, our Ancestors had ensured that knowledge is pervasive.

Expanding on this theme of innovation, we had fully established political and social systems which met the needs and demands of their times. Our societies lived in harmony because of all these knowledge systems.

When the white settlers arrived in Africa, commonly accepted to be at the Cape of Good Hope, they found our people living in harmony with fully functional societies. For the lack of understanding and due to their ignorant ways, they mistook us for savages and an uncivilised bunch.

It should be noted that when the Dutch East Indies Company decided to establish their refreshment station at Cape, they did this in full knowledge that the Cape had its owners, with their own ways of life. I therefore conclude that the Dutch East Indies Company had all intentions of colonising my people in the Cape, and this can be proven by the many wars our Kings fought then in trying to placate the settlers.

Across all our folklore stories, nowhere do they tell us that Black people neither did not know God nor our God lacked in any particular way. In fact, many folklore stories teach children about the existence of God; though our God is not a vindictive God who goes around issuing ultimatums to those who do not buy into invested stories of heaven and earth.

Until the arrival of missionaries, who came jointly with the settlers, my people had lived in harmony with their God.

This week reminded me of this simple fact when I witnessed thousands of Black people queuing at a church in inner city Jozi, queuing to buy what they believe to be holy water with healing powers from the church. Apparently the holy water is bought for R5 per 5 litres.

The simple truth that could not escape me was that while other races were either enjoying their Sunday, or sitting and thinking about new ways to advance, Black people were queuing at a church expecting ordinary water to perform miracles in Read the full story

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Bring Back the Johannesburg Central Library


South Africa is amazing country; we say one thing and then do the complete opposite! I am not sure what we attribute this attitude to, but all I know is that this problem needs to be sorted out, only if we take interest in our future well-being.

As I was writing this, I tried getting statistics on literacy rates for South Africa, but I got conflicting figures UNDP, Stats SA and others; so I am excluding statistics for the sake of clarity.

It is a generally held view that South Africa is not doing well in terms of literacy levels, and this has been proven time over by the various studies focusing on our student population. Others have gone as far as to say the blame should sit squarely on technology, as technology seems to have taken over our lives. I do admit that there are many reasons why people do not read, but leaving it at that would be too simplistic for me.

I have taken a look back and tried to assess what our government has done to improve things, and I am not impressed. This is not to say government has not done anything, just that they SHOULD have done better.

I am not sure if literacy can be divorced from the education system, but I thought I would take a somewhat neutral stand by focusing on libraries, for these are open to anyone who walks into them. While the state of many libraries is bad, particularly those located in townships and rural areas, I would like to concern myself with the biggest library in Johannesburg; which is the Johannesburg Central Library.

Besides the fact that is it centrally located, it happens to be about the only library in Johannesburg that is well-stocked. And, judging by the number of times I have been there, I would argue it is well-used. But, I am struggling to understand how the Gauteng government has decided to close the Johannesburg Central Library for over two years now. I am no expert but my simple logic tells me that because of its importance, if any major renovations were to be undertaken, that a temporary space would be made available for it to continue operating while its main building is being renovated. But, here lies the biggest library closed for over two years? How is this decision justified in the face of a public that takes no active interest in reading? By closing the only place where go to read in Johannesburg?

I had hoped that someone with clout would have brought this matter to correction by now. Where are civil society organisations? And of all organisations I had expected SADTU to be leading the fight to have the library reopened, but it, too, is silent.

How does one go about having this library reopened as a matter of urgency?

Please help to have the Johannesburg Central Library reopened.

Note: Okay, I must admit that I do not know by this day if the library is still closed because I cannot even find their contacts online. The City of Johannesburg is surprisingly quiet on this on their website; there is not a single contact number for the library, or any information that it is closed.


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Open Letter to Honourable Saki Macozoma

Dear Mr Macozoma,

I know South Africa respects you dearly. You are quite an accomplished individual, and one needs to only look at your educational achievements for confirmation. But most importantly, who can ever forget your spectacular foray into the business world? You and your compatriots came and made an impact during the first wave of black economic empowerment deals. I too acknowledge these achievements.

But you see mhlekazi; I have a long memory for it seems everyone has totally forgotten so easily. I look at the state of education in South Africa and wonder if we will ever get it right. Well, some argue that things have turned around for the better, maybe they have. But where I come from I see a world in perpetual crisis. I see black children going through the worst education system of them all. And let me dare say that what they are going through is worse than the Bantu Education I received, which was the worst form of education a person could receive.

Why do I say this? Well, during my Bantu Education days, certain things were guaranteed and never compromised. Take language issue for instance. Every black child had to learn their mother tongue, without which they could never pass any class. That was a good strategy because children grew up knowing their language. Today black children do not have to pass their language in order to progress in school. Isn’t everything rooted in language? The standard of education has dropped beyond belief, although everyone is celebrating the supposedly good matric results!

You see sir, during my days at school, 40% was the pass rate; period. This little fact was non-negotiable. And we all knew it. Today I am shocked to see matrics passing with a mere 31% mark. Goodness! What kind of students are we producing? Is it any wonder then that they fail terribly at tertiary level? Because we take a child who has achieved a measly 35% pass into a system where suddenly they must attain a demanding 50% pass! While we are talking about the standard of education, why is it that largely black children have had to receive a simplified form of education? I mean all they get are simplified guides and no more text books to read. Today there is even lower grade for matrics.

Imagine my shock in witnessing the debacle at the University of Johannesburg last week! Thousands of black students, queuing up to get a place at the university. Why? Well, some might have forgotten that it was you sir who recommended that universities in black areas be merged with former whites-only universities. It was you who said technikons must be closed and merged with universities. The result is the mess we find ourselves in today, while you have moved on and are enjoying a good life in business.

Your proposal meant that education would become a dream for a black child because overnight it became unaffordable for the masses! Gone are the days when a black student would get a degree at a second rate university like Vista. But at least they received a degree, and they could find some kind of job no matter how menial it was.

Today we have the highest dropout rates at tertiary than we have ever seen before. Even (supposedly) low cost universities like Unisa are today inaccessible as all South African universities have been priced out of range for the majority of the people. Today Unisa costs much the same as a residential university. And the worse thing is that black children who want to study further have nowhere else to go, because you have closed down technikons which used to house the majority of them before.

Is it not time for the South African public to start asking you questions on your take in the current state of affairs? I am yet to hear from you or your colleagues making statements about the sorry state of affairs in higher education. Why is it like that mhlekazi?

Please note that I come from the Bantu Education system, and I was not fortunate enough to afford any form of higher education. And today I frankly find myself studying ludicrous courses because of the cost factor.

In the interest of trying to fix our ailing higher education system, perhaps you could help us understand your reasons for the merger system you so vocally suggested. I think fresh new debates or discussions on the matter could be useful.

Yours without education.
Fezekile Futhwa

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The Economic Scam You Don’t Think About

Massive Economic Robbery of the Masses:

Do you ever think that a government would cheat its own citizens intentionally? Do you think a government would ever rob its citizens and act like it is normal to do so?

The South African monetary system is said to be one of the best in the world. This was proven right in 2008 when world markets crashed and the South African economy was not hit by the credit crunch to a large extent. So, it goes to reason that the people at the South African Treasury and the South African Reserve Bank know what they are doing, right? Well, I am not sure.

The South African Rand comes in various denominations, the bottom three being the one cent coin, the five cent coin and the ten cent coin – pretty straight forward.

A while back, the SA Reserve Bank announced that they would be discontinuing the circulation of the one cent coin, effectively meaning that they no longer recognised ‘one cent’ in the financial markets. Their reasoning made sense – it cost them too much to mint the one cent coin so they dropped it.

While this happened, it was interesting to note the spectacular absence of price adjustments in line with this pronouncement. No one really cared to adjust their prices to reflect that the one cent coin was no longer part of accounting. Instead, the South African public is still charged prices based on the one cent calculation. How many prices have you seen that end with 99 cent? If one cent has been discontinued, why are we still being charged one cent? Where are we supposed to get one cent coins to pay for these prices that include one cent? Even better, do you ever get given back your one cent change anywhere in South Africa?

We as the consumers are expected to gradually forfeit our money by constantly giving away cent pieces to stores and the government. But, will they ever offer you a service when you are short?

Imagine how much they make from all the one cent coins we never get back as consumers! How many millions of one cent pieces does this economy generate every day? Where does all this money go? Definitely not to the paying consumers!

Similar to the one cent story is the two cent coin story which has also been discontinued due to high production costs. How many stores today will not give you back five cent coins as change? They simply tell you they don’t have it, and they expect you to accept this.

Are we giving away money for free every day?

How many one cent, two cents and five cents pieces have you given away this year alone? How much do they amount to? Can you really account for how much you have lost as a result of this scam?

What about our government? Shouldn’t they have enforced that no prices should have any of the discontinued coins?

I see one BIG conspiracy to rip off consumers.

-Fezekile Futhwa


(The views expressed in this article are not necessarily the views of Kasi Times)

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Calls to Protect President Jacob Zuma

South African President

South Africa is a country of no logic, because things happen in their own way, with no precedence followed on many fronts.

The Durban branch of the ANC has made a public call that citizens of SA have a duty to protect the integrity of President Jacob Zuma against bad publicity, and what they consider slander.

One has to wonder why only in the past three years certain people have suddenly become concerned about the integrity of President Jacob Zuma. While I may agree that some things are really blown out of proportion unnecessarily, but it’s not enough reason for ordinary citizens to worry about the person of the president.

If memory serves me well, slandering a sitting president started with President Thabo Mbeki, even before he assumed office in 1999 when white people were worried if any other black person can be as capable as Nelson Mandela. The media made a meal out of this. I never heard anyone, including the ANC, coming to the defence of its president.

In fact, much of the discrediting of a president came from within the ANC itself when some in the ANC felt President Thabo Mbeki was not their man anymore. They started a smear campaign that ended in his removal from office in 2008. To this day, the ANC has never seen this as being inappropriate. In fact Read the full story

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