/ 15 December 2016

#CulturePop: Year of fees and woe but also bling and memes

Calling for change: Attempting to classify science as  ‘colonial’ or  ‘traditional’ detracts from its purpose — namely the acquistion of knowledge
Calling for change: Attempting to classify science as  ‘colonial’ or  ‘traditional’ detracts from its purpose — namely the acquistion of knowledge


The education sector has had a tricky year, be it the #FeesMustFall movement or the wider project of decolonising the education system and its institutions.

The basic education department has lowered the maths “pass” mark from 40% to 20% for public school learners in grades seven to nine. But, they argue, it’s not as bad as it looks. The idea is to promote learners who pass all their subjects but fail maths — which is compulsory. The condition would then be that these learners cannot take maths from grade 10 onward.

My question is: If the need came about to lower the pass or promotion mark, does it mean that a large number of learners are failing maths at the current requirement?

If we’re lowering the standards in grade 10, surely we have to lower them in matric and for tertiary education? Where does that leave us? It’s not the easiest subject and now it’s barely going to survive early high school. Pity.

There’s more, though. After this year’s student protests, the University of the Witwatersrand announced an 8% fee increase for next year, leaving students with egg on their faces and the trauma fresh in their memories.

In the midst of these education woes, our president continues to slay as a caricature. He gets an app modelled after “his inability to get his tongue around numbers”, as one journo called it. The Zumalator was developed by a guy in Cape Town and mocks Jacob Zuma’s general mathematical clumsiness, among other things.

If there is a parallel to be drawn between this and the 20% maths pass mark, I don’t want to hear it. Our country has to be more complex than that.

Still on the topic of presidents, Thabo Mbeki is the new chancellor of Unisa, taking over from Judge Bernard Ngoepe, who held the post for 15 years. With this appointment, Unisa hopes to reposition itself as an African university and align itself with his “Africa rising” narrative.

Last week got off to a shocking start with the news of the murder of 22-year-old Noluvo “Vovo” Swe-lindawo and the death of gospel artist Sfiso Ncwane.

Swelindawo was a queer woman from Driftsands near Khayelitsha who was abducted from her home, shot and left for dead near the N2 highway. Her name has been added to a list of black lesbians who have fallen victim to acts of hate. A 24-year-old male suspect was arrested and appeared in court last week. His bail application is on December 21. This contemptible incident took place during the 16 Days of Activism for No Violence against Women and Children.

The death of gospel heavyweight Ncwane shocked fans and the industry alike. The creator of the popular ballad Kulungile Baba was given a fitting send-off studded with high-profile personalities and dignitaries. But it was Rebecca Malope’s tribute at his funeral that seemed to stop time and pull at the heart strings. They don’t call her Babez Wendumiso for nothing.

Another entertainment legend died last week: Joseph Mascolo, best known for playing Stefano DiMera, the mafioso villain of Days of Our Lives. Of all the villains who appeared on the 1990s daytime soapie, Stefano was the baddest.

A supposed Person of the Year nominations run has been making its rounds on social media and Gavin the Meme Kid was a top choice. Gavin is possibly the most memed little person on the internet. His expressions sum up just about every awkward emotion there is and even if 2016 was not your year, it was certainly Gavin’s.

But he didn’t deliberately make the internet his own personal audience. Presenter and media darling Minnie Dlamini brought boys and girls to the yard with an announcement that made the internet weak at the knees: Mama is engaged.

After sharing an image of her dainty left hand with a sparkly piece on her ring finger, she basically won Monday and is in the running for Person of the Year here.

And in the (hopefully) last bit of sad news for this year, the much-loved Johannesburg live music venue Bassline is closing its doors as a public space after 22 years in first Melville and then Newtown.

Bassline will now be doing special events, monthly shows and music festivals as well as live music production and artist management. Is this goodbye to 22 years of epic Ragga Night Thursdays?