Letters to the editor: November 18 to 24 2016

Schools need sightsavers

I refer to the article A pair of glasses can change a life. Because of the work I do I was very interested in this article by Imran Khan of Sightsavers.

I have the privilege of running a large nongovernmental organisation involved in community development through building schools. I tell you this detail to create the context for my writing in response to Khan’s important contribution to this problem and to compliment you for bringing this issue to the attention of the public.

During the course of any given year, the Project Build Trust builds at up to 30 schools. At the end of each project it is usual to have a celebratory handover of the buildings to the school community. This is usually quite a formal event and, as the chief executive, I am invited to sit at the main table with the young learners sitting in front of us. In nearly 15 years, only once have I seen a young child wearing glasses. As I gaze out at the little ones, I know that a high percentage must be battling sight problems that mitigate against good learning.

I worry. During these years I have heard of only two or three organisations involved in eye care, but I’ve never seen any of them active at the schools, and I don’t see children wearing glasses. I am very keen to make contact with, for example, Sightsavers as I wonder whether there is some way in which we could collaborate for the benefit of the youngsters. I have some positive ideas of how Project Build Trust can add value to any activity.

I would like to add that I can never understand why glasses for the public are so very expensive. Anecdotally it is obvious to me that a high percentage of the public wear glasses. I wonder in our developmental society how many need glasses but can’t afford them. I understand that the very poor can approach the Red Cross, for example. I was pleased to see that Khan says glasses are available for $5. Please can he let us know where this is available.

I hope that you will print this letter and that there will be a response. – Suzanne Edmunds, chief executive Project Build Trust, 031 307 5322 and [email protected]

Learn lifelong skills for the wild, wide world

Now that the matric exams are in full swing we are on the lookout for the cheats. But there is a bigger scandal going on – it is cramming, passing and forgetting (or CPF for short).

When you are at school, you are in a hurry to join the wild, wide world. After matric you might be going on exciting adventures without your parents watching you like a hawk. You would do almost anything to get rid of what seems like torture, including cramming or cheating in exams so that you can pass and say: “I have been there and done that”, to the envy of those in other grades.

But you are also faced with a sad reality. In school it is almost certain that if you pass one grade you are promoted to the next, but that is not how the adult world is. To be frank, this new life is littered with shards of broken dreams, disappointments and suffering. Not to mention bills.

That’s when you remember those financial maths concepts of compound interest, interest rate annuities and depreciation, among others. You scratch your head and say to yourself: “I should have tried to understand those concepts instead of cramming to pass and then forget.”

But you console yourself: “Trigonometry was useless anyway. How’s it helping me now?”

This only serves to underscore the disconnect between what you learn at school and how useful it is outside the classroom. I don’t know how teachers can make the links between school and life explicit. As the status quo stands it is an indictment of the education system, where one spends 12 or so years, after which you come out feeling woefully unprepared for the world of work, relationships, finances and coping with life in general.

If these connections were made apparent, then pupils might not resort to cramming but to lifelong learning and understanding. – Mike Idagiza, Katlehong

ANC, take responsibility for state capture

The ANC has always hidden behind the cloak of “collective decision-making” – a very clever policy that made it so easy to summarily disperse any blame for blatant corruption, incompetence and maladministration at all levels, including in the party.

With that in mind it is now imperative that the ANC in its entirety be held responsible for the state capture phenomenon.

South Africans should be demanding the resignation of the present government and a general snap election. We deserve a far better government.

Of course, the main perpetrators must now bear the full force of the law – up to and perhaps including treason.

The Guptas should also be charged with treason or equally serious criminal charges. – Dr Peter C Baker, Johannesburg

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