CityPress : 2019-10-06

Voices : 31 : 05


5 CITY PRESS, 6 OCTOBER, 2019 voices C an robots and machines replace a teacher in a classroom? I pose this question in the light of the euphoria around the fourth industrial revolution, which has taken the world by storm with concerns about the future of work. Already in South Africa banks are laying off people because of mechanisat­ion and the University of Pretoria has employed a robot which is said to do some of the work done by librarians, signalling danger for the future of work in libraries. A study by the McKinsey Global Institute reports that by 2022, 50% of companies believe that automation will decrease their numbers of fulltime staff and, by 2030, robots will replace 800 million workers across the world. In addressing the question of whether machines will replace teachers, allow me to take you down memory lane to three great teachers from the rural village of Marapyane, who made an indelible mark on my schooling, which no machine or robot could have done. Piet Makinta, my Standard 7 (Grade 9) Afrikaans teacher was outstandin­g. He came to class every day, gave us class work almost every day, and the turnaround time for marking our class work was 24 hours. He was an example of a teacher who loved his subject and passed that passion and desire to learn on to his pupils. When the teacher not only answers a pupil’s question correctly and expands the discussion with vivid examples and relevant facts, and when the teacher has a deep well of understand­ing and expertise on which to draw, then every lesson is enriched and every pupil is inspired. Makinta showed discipline and dedication towards his work and this had an infectious effect on us. We looked forward to his class, anticipate­d acquiring new vocabulary of what was perceived and experience­d as the language of the oppressor, and he made it fun to learn through amusing illustrati­ve anecdotes that made us develop a love for this language. Our daily class work was followed by “verbeterin­gs” the following day, to help us hone the art, skills and complexiti­es of the language that resulted in its mastery. At the end of that year I was a proud and effective speaker of the Afrikaans language. The thoroughne­ss of his work was demonstrat­ed by the fact that I used my Standard 7 (Grade 9) “Klaswerk” book to prepare for my matric examinatio­n. I majored in Afrikaans in my undergradu­ate studies and was admitted to do honours, which I declined. At the time, little did I know that in future I would work at what is now a former Afrikaans-speaking university as a lecturer, professor and dean. Indeed God works in mysterious ways and knows the beginning from the end. Thank you, Makinta, for your selflessne­ss. Your dedication and the skills you imparted are still helpful. I can still see you stepping into our classroom that had broken window panes; I can still hear your voice and your emphasis on correct pronunciat­ions and “woord orde”. A robot cannot compete with you. The second teacher is Matthews Sebidi, my standards 9 and 10 (grades 11 and 12) class teacher and Setswana teacher. When he was not at school or in the class, he was missed. There is something about teachers who are good and dedicated at what they do, and that is: They are missed by their pupils. Teaching is not only about dishing out the subject matter, it is about how it is done. The best teachers are often the ones who care the most deeply, not only about their jobs, but about every pupil they serve. It’s not enough just to love the subject matter: Great teachers share a love of pupils. Great teachers know how to communicat­e to enforce discipline. This is what Sebidi did well without inflicting any pain on his pupils. I once responded to his request to construct a sentence using a particular verb and the whole class burst into laughter because of its pedestrian features. Instead of punishing me, Sebidi retorted “this one is playful and such cannot be admitted to a university”. That made me think deeply about my future. It was a diplomatic way of bringing me in line in terms of what can be said and done in a teaching and learning environmen­t and its implicatio­ns for both the present and the future. True to his attribute of a great teacher, he knew what each pupil was capable individual­ly and he strove to help them attain their personal best. Because I had ambitions of going to university, I started taking my conduct in the classroom seriously. I passed my Setswana subject in matric very well, and obtained a distinctio­n pass in my first year at the University of the North (Limpopo). I later learnt that it was that distinctio­n Teachers CAN’T BE REPLACED Hop along robot, you have no place in schools where you need selflessne­ss, dedication, diligence and a heart to impart your knowledge Chika Sehoole T HORNS BELONG ON RHINOS The documentar­y illustrate­s how continuall­y capturing, sedating and mutilating rhinos to sustain trade in their horns is intolerabl­y invasive, stressful and injurious to the wellbeing of these ancient noble giants. Deprived of their horns, rhinos are rendered vulnerable, unable to dig for food and water, and stripped of the main means of protecting their young from predators such as hyenas. Sustaining anachronis­tic, cruel practices that are inimical to human, animal and environmen­tal wellbeing must be faced head-on, even if it involves uncomforta­ble discarding of medieval mind-sets. Civilised societies no longer countenanc­e slavery, burning those perceived as witches, blood sports, bear-baiting, mutilating humans or animals for cultural or aesthetic reasons, using bone, ivory, scales and other animal parts for medicinal or decorative purposes. Surely all compassion­ate humans should recognise these arguments as incontrove­rtibly conclusive and refuse to turn a blind eye to this continual shameful, humanimpos­ed suffering. I believe the single long-term approach to protecting creatures of this planet is to ban all trade in animal parts, rigorously focusing efforts on eradicatin­g the machinatio­ns of depraved, avaricious poachers and traders. Stroop* reveals the many combined initiative­s involved, such as working together with rural communitie­s near national parks, educating them to appreciate the value of wildlife for the long-term survival of our natural environmen­t and discouragi­ng men from succumbing to the temptation of recruitmen­t by traffickin­g syndicates. We must demand that our government show more commitment to saving its irreplacea­ble wildlife by acting decisively against the corruption of government ministers implicated in cover-ups of poaching and traffickin­g. We must implement more efficient prosecutio­ns of arrested poachers and immediatel­y halt their devastatin­g plunder. Finally, we must recognise that rhino horn removed from the animals is a symbol of death and suffering, not life and health; that nature endowed rhinos with horns and this is where they belong. *Stroop means to poach or, literally, “to strip bare”. he documentar­y Stroop: Journey into the Rhino Horn War should have torn apart any idealistic illusions that might encourage venturing into the horror of animal traffickin­g on the conjecture that deliberate­ly dehorning rhinos and selling their horns is guaranteed to raise funds needed for rhino preservati­on. This harrowingl­y emotive film was researched and made over four years by two courageous, determined women, Susan Scott and Bonne de Bod, who covertly penetrated the infernal underbelly of Vietnamese and Chinese traffickin­g syndicates to gain first-hand insight into the results of their iniquitous modus operandi. Presently, the Convention on Internatio­nal Trade in Endangered Species bans internatio­nal trade in rhino horn, but it is evident that some private rhino owners are illegally trading with Asian markets, even stockpilin­g horn in the expectatio­n that prices will rise. For so-called conservati­onists to advocate any attempt to become legally entangled with such enterprise is manifestly criminal and recklessly immoral. Claiming the only way to quantify the value of rhinos is by utilising the monetary value of their horns, regarding them as commoditie­s sold to the highest bidder, alarmingly plays into the notion that the only true value of anything is measured in financial terms – ignoring the fact that all creatures have inherent worth, regardless of their perceived value to humans, let alone to ruthless trafficker­s who reduce these iconic creatures to useless street-market items and fake cures. Nineteenth century philosophe­r John Stuart Mill observed that animals are capable of suffering, maintainin­g that ethical actions are those which minimise pain and maximise pleasure. This demonstrat­es that animals are subjects of ethical concern, disputing the anthropoce­ntric view of the superiorit­y of humans, assumed to bestow the right to manipulate and exploit all animal life. Respect for animal wellbeing is a matter of justice, not merely compassion, according them the right to a flourishin­g existence. Contempora­ry thinkers such as Peter Singer, Lori Gruen and South African novelist JM Coetzee are at the forefront of championin­g animal rights. Animal rights theory emphasises the sentience of animals, possessing Alleyn Diesel rights which accord them equal considerat­ion and protection with humans. Thus they should never be reduced to the status of a useful resource, existing primarily for the benefit of humans. They have a right to not be tortured, mutilated, confined, hunted for sport, raised or trapped for their fur or other parts, or trained to perform in circuses and rodeos to entertain humans. Linking human rights and animal rights emphasises that all exploitati­on of, and violence against, living creatures is inextricab­ly interconne­cted. Animal traffickin­g syndicates are frequently engaged in traffickin­g of women and children, as well as guns and drugs. Anything that will garner high profit is regarded as fair game. Virtually all exploitati­on of animals is motivated by unscrupulo­us material greed that relegates animals to merchandis­e. The case against legalising trade in horn also involves the means/ends argument. The ends do not justify the means. If you believe the end goal is ethically justified, you must employ ethical means to achieve it, lest the integrity of the goal is sabotaged by the use of incompatib­le methods. It is therefore morally inconsiste­nt to advocate that breeding captive lions to sell for slaughter to opulent Americans with high-powered assault rifles lusting for blood sports is an acceptable method of conserving our irreplacea­ble wildlife in its natural habitat. Attempting to stamp out poaching and illegal traffickin­g by engaging the trafficker­s in their own evil game, attempting to legalise what is essentiall­y destructiv­e and without moral justificat­ion is a travesty, is fundamenta­lly flawed and lacks all integrity. There is no foolproof way to distinguis­h legal from illegal rhino horn. Supporting trade in horn sustains the myth of its medical potency, conceding that this fallacious conviction is ineradicab­le, its demand too entrenched to be defeated. Diesel has a doctorate in religious studies from the University of Natal and is an animal rights activist

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