ANC has not built one mud school

Often there are things we let go in our democratic space – itself a hard-won product of the democratic struggles led by the ANC and won with the people against the forces of reaction, backwardness and sheer racism. This is in the interest of free speech, but there are utterances we must surely confront. They masquerade as poetry, said to be for some poor little black boy or girl lost in "schools without proper infrastructure, books or decent teachers".

Such is the cynical rant by Marlene van Niekerk published on the Mail & Guardian letters page ("Motshekga's name is mud", May 17) – a poem, it appears, for hapless native children of the "wild" Eastern Cape.

Like little Calibans on Prospero's island, they are incapable of accessing her poem in English, so she tells us condescendingly, with contempt and arrogance, in a self-righteous tone not unlike that of the erstwhile colonial writers: "I will see to it that it gets translated into isiXhosa." A round of applause, I would imagine, should follow.

Of course, it's a fact of history that, whereas a chosen few "like lambs rejoiced" in the best-elected schools, the majority was condemned to wretchedness in homelands "dry as death", such as the Ciskei and the Transkei.

Maybe I'm taking Van Niekerk too seriously, dignifying an insult to the innocent with this reply. We need not remind her, for indeed she knows, how disingenuous she is. As far as I know, no government of ours set up one mud school anywhere in the country after apartheid.

In the old country, our people, arising from neglect and ridicule at the hands of the racist rulers, set up "schools without proper infrastructure" just so the African child could learn and therefore read some English without translations into isiXhosa. Besides, not every child in the Eastern Cape speaks isiXhosa. Also, with the revised curriculum, children in public schools are taught English from the foundation phase onwards. Some children come from families speaking English at home, including children of those teachers deemed less than "decent" by Van Niekerk. We do have great teachers in public schools. Some did study at universities such as Stellenbosch. And, yes, some are "fortunate" enough to have books in their homes.

The 2013-2014 basic education budget vote speech makes it quite clear that what the democratic government has achieved in the 19 years of freedom recalled by Van Niekerk (though with amnesia in respect of centuries of colonial pillage) is a first for this country. We see Minister Angie Motshekga in and out of the Eastern Cape, attending to problems and opening new schools. She does not depend, as Van Niekerk does, on what she's "told" by others.

On May 22, she opened a new school in Mthatha, Nobantu, built by government at a cost of R12-million as part of the programme to replace inappropriate structures. In April, she opened two schools in one day, also in the Eastern Cape. Many are to follow. By 2012, about 114-million full-colour national workbooks had been distributed to schools across all provinces, including the Eastern Cape.

We know that more than eight million children in over 82% of public schools are in no-fee schools. The conditional grant for the national school nutrition programme, to ensure nutritious lunches for children, not "malebese" and "jabula soup", has increased by R266.6-million in 2013-2014 to R5.173-billion. If this isn't "urgent action" by Van Niekerk's standards, then nothing will be.

Honesty and a modicum of respect for others, different or otherwise, is all we should ask as South Africans. Our history we cannot alter or deny. "We are khaki" with experience, from colonisation and apartheid to democracy, justice and freedom.

In Van Niekerk's poem she takes the liberty of insulting the person of the president, showing inhumanity to the very people whom he represents. It's easy for one who has never experienced poverty to derive pleasure from the denial of educational rights of others. – David Hlabane, communications unit, department of basic education


Hosni Mubarak is dead, but the Egypt he built is...

Despite the efforts of the Arab Spring, Egypt is still led by a military dictatorship made in Mubarak’s image

Inside the Security Branch: Torture between brandy and boerewors

A former SB operative, Paul Erasmus, talks about the torture of a young trade unionist, Neil Aggett, and the machinations at John Vorster Square

Press Releases

South Africa’s education system is broken and unequal, and must be fixed without further delay

The Amnesty International report found that the South African government continues to miss its own education upgrading targets

Business travel industry generates billions

Meetings Africa is ready to take advantage of this lucrative opportunity

Conferences connect people to ideas

The World Expo and Meetings Africa are all about stimulating innovation – and income

SAB Zenzele Kabili B-BBEE share scheme

New scheme to be launched following the biggest B-BBEE FMCG payout in South Africa’s history

TFSAs are the gymnasts of the retirement savings world

The idea is to get South Africans to save, but it's best to do your research first to find out if a TFSA is really suited to your needs

Achieving the litmus test of social relevance

The HSS Awards honours scholarly works based on their social relevance and contribution to the humanities and social sciences

Making sense of tax-free savings and investment

Have you made the most of your tax-free investment contributions?

Response to the report of the independent assessors

VUT welcomes the publishing of the report of the independent assessors to investigate concerns of poor governance, leadership, management, corruption and fraud at the university.