Clean up by the community in the Nandi Drive area, near Mass Discounters warehouse which is still smouldering after the looting that has plagued Durban and KZN since Monday. Picture: Shelley Kjonstad/African News Agency(ANA)
Clean up by the community in the Nandi Drive area, near Mass Discounters warehouse which is still smouldering after the looting that has plagued Durban and KZN since Monday. Picture: Shelley Kjonstad/African News Agency(ANA)

Civil unrest starkly reminded us of all the inequalities in our country

By Brian Isaacs Time of article published Jul 23, 2021

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One thing all South Africans/Azanians can agree on is that our country is blessed with natural beauty and Thabo Mbeki summed it up in Parliament on May 8, 1996 when he said : “I owe my being to the hills and valleys... ”

Last week we were starkly reminded of all the inequalities in our country. Since 1652, when our land was invaded by colonialists we have struggled to provide a decent life for all in our country.

We fought a long fight against colonialism because of its unjust ideology – one of conquering, raping the country of its resources and suppressing its inhabitants.

In 1994, with the goodwill of the majority of South Africans a negotiated settlement was reached in which we were given hope of a better South Africa. The ANC-led government in our country was given the gigantic task of re-building a country raped of its resources by the colonialists who fled the country and those remaining in the country. It was time for these colonialists (with all the capital) to sit back and see how the newly installed government would hand out the crumbs to the people.

Just as we criticised colonisers from Holland and Britain, the United Party of Jan Smuts and the apartheid Nationalist government for neglecting the majority of people in South Africa, we now have to reflect on the African National Congress-led government.

The last two weeks have seen conflict in Kwazulu-Natal and Gauteng. The government is saying there are rogue elements in these two provinces responsible for the conflict. The government says that it will sort out the criminal elements responsible for this.

There is also a strong belief that supporters of the now jailed ex-president of our country are behind the looting of shops which we have seen on our TV screens.

How does this affect education? We have witnessed what the well-known South African educationist Dr Richard Dudley said of education in the apartheid era: “We are experiencing a pot of boiling water and they expect us to sit on the lid to prevent it from exploding.”

This is what has happened in education since 1994. I have mentioned this ad nauseam in past articles. The pupil-teacher ratio of 40:1 in 1996, the 20 000 teachers’ retrenchment in 1996, the closing down of 50 teacher-training colleges, the dumbing down of the curriculum (OBE in 1998), closing down of schools in 2012 (5 000 schools mostly in rural areas), ratio of primary schools to high schools is 2:1 – the drop-out rate is not only caused by students failing but by the fact we do not have enough high schools to accommodate the primary school students.

Now I could repeat this in every facet of South African life – in the health sector, social work and general public service sectors. Covid-19 has exposed all these inequalities in a glaring manner.

What our government must do is to pay serious heed to the needs of the citizens in this country. The private sector is there to make a profit for organisations and individuals.

Yes, the government must look at ways and means where the private sector must play its part in providing jobs. The government must provide jobs for the unemployed. If this does not happen we will see more uprisings in our society.

We will have ourselves to blame. We must act now or face the consequences which we see happening!

* Brian Isaacs obtained a BSc (UWC) in 1975, a Secondary Teacher’s Diploma in 1976, BEd (UWC) in 1981, and MEd (UWC) in 1992. He is a former matriculant, teacher and principal at South Peninsula High School.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.

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