How to publish a fees report

THE FIFTH COLUMN

Dear Fees Commission,

We regret to inform you that your 570-page manuscript, titled Commission of Inquiry into Higher Education and Training, will not be considered for publication as a hardcover at this time.

Stories — in their current form — consist of a beginning, a middle and an end, with a hero, or protagonist, undergoing some sort of change to come to some sort of deep insight.

Your story (although with a considerable beginning and oversized middle) has, at a total length of a gazillion words, no end and is bereft of heroes, plots, insights and twists of any kind.

Furthermore, in addition to a moral lesson, and despite the trials and tribulations of the hero, contemporary stories have happy endings — so as to leave readers with the joyful notion that everything is okay, and will be as long as they lose themselves in fiction.

The manuscript you sent us (bar, perhaps, mention of a R99-billion surplus) brought us, and by extension our readers, no joy.

We were also appalled by your habit of blatantly stating the obvious (and there is no other way of putting this) to pad a horribly deficient document.

We all know that everyone has a right to further education and that the state has a constitutional duty to realise this. There is no need whatsoever to acknowledge it, and even less so in the opening stanza of the manuscript.

A good tip to remember is that the readability of a novel hinges on what the reader does not know and the author’s expert ability to reveal the unknown in a slow and tantalising drip that forces said reader to keep turning the page.

We also know that the state does not have the funds to provide free higher education and training. It was our fervent hope upon hearing about your project in January 2016 that your manuscript would be a work — a suspense thriller of the highest order — that tells the story of how those funds could be generated.


Apart from shining a light on curious abbreviations such as TVET and HEPI, it does no such thing.

Try as we might, we could not find a genre for your submission other than horror, our in-tray for which is already filled to its desperate brim with ill-fated submissions (like yours) comprising the Marikana Commission of Inquiry, the State Capture Report and the Arms Procurement Inquiry, to name but a few.

For future reference (although it is our professional recommendation to make this your last attempt at writing), at least send us an entertaining, rose-tinted novel about a country thriving at the hands of a creative government with the means and motivation to find a way and, while they’re at it, the will to make a change.

As another free tip (from us to you, to illustrate the immense benefits of free education), note that the hero in such a utopian tale would be the country, and the moral embedded in its prose the resilience of that country to rise above circumstances to reach unbelievable heights.

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever. But it comes at a cost. Advertisers are cancelling campaigns, and our live events have come to an abrupt halt. Our income has been slashed.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years. We’ve survived thanks to the support of our readers, we will need you to help us get through this.

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