Quo­tas cor­rect im­bal­ance

Sepa­ra­tion of pupils in class at North West school re­flects de­nial of op­por­tu­ni­ties to young black chil­dren

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - METRO - Fisher is an in­de­pen­dent me­dia pro­fes­sional. Fol­low him on Twit­ter: @ry­land­fisher.

ONE of the high­lights for me about watch­ing cricket at New­lands last Satur­day, day 3 of the Test match be­tween South Africa and Pak­istan, had noth­ing to do with what was hap­pen­ing on the field of play.

It in­volved in­jured Proteas fast bowler Lungi Ngidi, who was mobbed by young boys, prob­a­bly be­tween 10 and 12 years old, as he walked past the north stand, where we were sit­ting. He pa­tiently signed their cricket bats, books and T-shirts, and took self­ies with them, while a burly se­cu­rity guard was des­per­ately try­ing to get him to move on.

I am not sure who the se­cu­rity guard was more con­cerned about, Ngidi or the boys, be­cause they all seemed to be en­joy­ing them­selves.

I thought about this as I read the ar­ti­cles this week about Spring­bok rugby cap­tain Siya Kolisi’s re­ported com­ments about trans­for­ma­tion.

Re­ply­ing to a ques­tion from a Ja­panese jour­nal­ist, Kolisi is re­ported to have said that Nel­son Man­dela would not have sup­ported trans­for­ma­tion quo­tas in sport.

Kolisi said that he would not want to be picked for the Spring­bok team be­cause of his skin colour. “Surely, that would not be good for the team.”

He re­port­edly said that trans­for­ma­tion should start at grass-roots level in town­ship schools.

“Imag­ine if I did not go to an English school. I wouldn’t have been eat­ing prop­erly, I wouldn’t have grown prop­erly, and I wouldn’t have had the prepa­ra­tion that the other boys did.”

While Kolisi should never have pre­sumed to have an in­sight into the mind of the late Nel­son Man­dela, his com­ments about trans­for­ma­tion are im­por­tant and re­flect what black sports peo­ple in South Africa have to deal with on a daily ba­sis.

I doubt whether the me­dia would have asked Proteas cap­tain Faf du Plessis, or any other prom­i­nent white sports­man, what Man­dela thought about trans­for­ma­tion quo­tas.

But of­ten, when many white sports lovers see black play­ers who ex­cel, they only see quota ap­pointees. Black play­ers of­ten have to work twice as hard to be con­sid­ered half as good as their white coun­ter­parts.

This is why the scene that played out in front of me, in­volv­ing Ngidi and the lit­tle boys, was so spe­cial. Ngidi is black. Most of the boys were white. They were not idol­is­ing a quota player. They were idol­is­ing a good player, one of South Africa’s crick­eters of the year for 2018.

But the re­al­ity is that Ngidi and many other tal­ented in­di­vid­u­als like him might not have re­ceived the op­por­tu­ni­ties to ex­cel if the cricket bosses had not im­posed quo­tas on the Proteas selectors.

I thought about the Ngidi scene also when I saw the pic­tures on social me­dia of white and black chil­dren be­ing sep­a­rated at a pri­mary school in Sch­weizer-Reneke.

The teach­ers of those chil­dren are prob­a­bly among the peo­ple who op­pose quo­tas in sport, but they don’t re­alise that their ac­tions are per­pet­u­at­ing the need for quo­tas.

No one can dis­pute the need to trans­form South African so­ci­ety – at all lev­els and in all ar­eas – from one in which whites had ac­cess to op­por­tu­ni­ties de­nied to blacks. Trans­form­ing so­ci­ety re­quires us to cre­ate op­por­tu­ni­ties for blacks, some­times to the detri­ment of whites who are used to hav­ing such op­por­tu­ni­ties.

The de­nial of op­por­tu­ni­ties starts when chil­dren are young. It starts off with seat­ing chil­dren in the same class at dif­fer­ent tables.

As we cel­e­brate 25 years of democracy this year, we need to re­mem­ber that we come from a di­vided past. It is in the in­ter­ests of all South Africans for more peo­ple in our so­ci­ety to have ac­cess to op­por­tu­ni­ties, whether this is in sport, busi­ness or arts and cul­ture.

Those who op­pose quo­tas talk about choos­ing teams on merit, but be­fore you can do this you must cre­ate an en­vi­ron­ment in which ev­ery­one will have op­por­tu­ni­ties to show their worth. This is the role of quo­tas, noth­ing more, noth­ing less.

THIS pic­ture, taken at a pri­mary school in Sch­weizer-Reneke, went vi­ral on social me­dia.

RY­LAND FISHER

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