People must do it for themselves
Fuel prices rose again this month, adding to the woes demonstrated by the recent unemployment statistics that confirmed what this column has long forecast: the jobs massacre will continue.
Largely to blame for the job losses, of course, is the ongoing slump in commodity prices, but the steady march of mechanisation is also taking its toll.
Then there are the latest, well-documented figures on food costs supplied by the Pietermaritzburg-based social action group Pacsa.
These reveal that, at the time when the child support grant increased by R20 a month, the minimum cost of providing a young child with a nutritionally balanced diet rose by R75.75.
Inadequate in the first place at R350 a month – R572.80 a month is the cost of the estimated minimum nutritional requirement for a young child – what this means is that children from poor backgrounds start life with massive handicaps.
Yet we are constantly being told that education is the answer to all of our problems; that if we produce a better-educated workforce, prosperity will be guaranteed and poverty vanquished.
This is another of those ludicrous myths peddled by the makers of wish lists.
Yes, education is one of the keys to a better, brighter future, but not in isolation.
A politically and economically stable environment is necessary for an educational environment that does not – as the current one does – waste the potential of the majority our children.
This is a very depressing outlook. However, South Africa remains a wealthy county, listed as “middle income” because of the huge disparity between rich and poor.
And there exists a banner of hope in our egalitarian Bill of Rights, but the current economic and political system has clearly created conditions at variance with the pursuit of these rights.
There are growing signs of rebellion against the alienation of the majority from the political and economic machine.
Whether in service-delivery protests, community food gardens or education, the dominant theme is democratic: people are doing things, through unions or other groups, by themselves and for themselves.
What is needed is for the positive elements, especially in education in its broadest sense, to be encouraged, expanded and coordinated. This cannot happen by diktat.
As Michael Rice, director of the highly successful not-for-profit organisation Programme for Educational Tablets in Schools, notes: “There is no point in trying to upgrade anyone who is resistant to the process; solutions imposed from the top down are doomed to fail.”
Teacher unions confirm that, at great financial cost, various government programmes to improve teacher and pupil performance have generally failed to make much of an impression.
The subjects of this largesse also complain that they are seldom consulted about their needs.
Yet there are schemes, including those run by unions, that seem to succeed because they have the “buy-in” of the users, which is not to say that any provide an ultimate answer, but they do reveal that a “bottom-up approach” seems essential.
Which brings to mind and old slogan: educate, organise, agitate (for true transformation).
In other words, the answer may be for people to actively and constructively involve themselves in the management of their own lives, to rally to the banner of the Bill of Rights.