COSAS is hamster number one

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cosaslogoThere is never any reason to expect a new year to be any different from the previous one. The arbitrary shift from December to January is good for a few days off, and for many of us, too much indulgence – but changing minds and attitudes takes longer than that, and isn’t responsive to fireworks and Auld Lang Syne in any case.

So, it’s no surprise to find that – after a mere 5 days of 2013 – we already have (at least) 2 depressing examples of the hamster wheel that is discourse around race in South Africa. Much effort is put into keeping it spinning, but to little effect. And if one hamster dies, another – often indistinguishable from the last – takes its place.

COSAS is hamster number 1. This Black Consciousness movement was formed in the late 70′s to represent black pupils, following the Soweto uprisings. They have many proud moments in their history, regardless of whether you agree with their politics or not. You can read about their history here if you care to. The salient detail for my purposes is that the “organization’s principle aims were the conscientising of students and the wider community to the repressive nature of education in South Africa” (sic).

If you think the construction of that sentence poor, consider this, the first sentence of the recent COSAS statement on the 2012 Matric (Grade 12, the final year of secondary school) results:

The congress of South African students would like to unreservedly welcome the metric result of the class of 2012, this class is the class that reactionary forces anticipated negative outcomes from, as a way to put substance onto their argument which suggest that there is a severe collapse of order in the government that is lead by the ANC, the 2012 result beyond any other thing they are specially recognized by COSAS because they Are a reflection of a narrowing gap in terms of the quality of education between the model c schools and the township and the rural school, and such was made more than visible by the performance of a number of students who scored outstanding result from the lowest quintiles of our schools.

As a friend pointed out, this is a telling example, and “a massive indictment, of what mass education has done for born-free South Africans”. Not to mention proof-positive that COSAS’s work (as quoted above) is not yet done, in that the organisation’s Secretary General is still a clear victim of that repressive education himself.

The statement carries on in that vein (here’s the pdf), and in some respects gets worse when Tshiamo Tsotetsi (the Secretary General) expresses concern that publishing student names and results in newspapers is ill-advised because pupils are then targets for witchcraft: “All of these bad things can come to an end only if these results are no longer published. We would no longer loose our young people through depression or witchcraft.”

One of the leaders of an organisation devoted to improving school education, in other words, believes that children are being lost through witchcraft (and therefore, that witchcraft even exists). And of course, he’s right to some extent, seeing as pupils no doubt believe this too and are therefore victims of something people call “witchcraft”, despite their being nothing supernatural about it at all. But the tragedy is that 12 years of school isn’t sufficient to dispel these superstitions. Or, that nothing in the curriculum teaches skills and principles of reasoning that would help to do so. Worst of all, it’s probable that many teachers believe in witchcraft themselves.

The education system, the Matric results, and the gloating of the Ministry of Basic Education – even in the face of a reality where less than 1 in 3 pupils complete high school – could be the subject of an extended rant. As could hamster number 2, Gillian Schutte, with her recent prescriptive self-flagellation entitled  “Dear White People“. I’ll get to that in a separate post, and for now simply reiterate what I said on first reading her column (with apologies for misspelling Schutte’s last name):

  • Neville

    Just remember that it was white people who voted in the referendum to allow De Klerk to negotiate with the ANC. There was never any question of the ANC winning a military freedom.

    Jillian’s upbringing and her opinions are her own based on what her life experiences are and were. We are all South African irrespective of colour we all want our children to be safe and have good carriers and lives, BBEEE is a disaster, where else in the world do the majority have to be protected against he minority?

    The absolute lack of respect of the law and life in our country was never as apparent as it is under the ANC, take the time to speak to black Zimbabweans on how dangerous our country is versus their own! from a crime perspective, and they have a dictatorship. This is not a black white issue it is a lack of government and willingness to make changes for the better. Zuma is a criminal and his government has proven its inability to govern this country from an ethical and fiscal perspective for the last 4 years. Our hope is in the Born Free generation who have already recognized that the ANC does not deserve their vote purely based on what they did pre freedom 1994.

    What few people realize is that the ANC is now getting its dirty corrupt fingers on our pension funds and is being ably assisted by the Insurance companies who should be protecting the policy holders and not creating mechanisms for the ANC to get our hard saved pension funds, to which they contribute nothing, for the purpose of infrastructure development. We could go into detail but just some ” highlights from last year” the Sanral tollgate disaster where just the administration of the road fund could have covered a third of the cost of the actual improvements, the 9 billion in unapproved expenditure at local government level the Zuma infrastructure development of 240 million.

    What few people realize is the potential for destructive civil war in South Africa, We cannot live in the past and should not.