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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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 email@example.com 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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