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article image'Education crisis not Verwoerd's fault' — anti-apartheid activist

By Anne Sewell     Aug 1, 2012 in World
Durban - President Jacob Zuma blamed a Limpopo text book scandal on apartheid era Prime Minister H.F. Verwoerd. Anti-apartheid activist, Mamphela Ramphele, says the ANC is to blame.
There is a huge scandal going on in South Africa over text books for the Limpopo province. In early July, a clerk at the Limpopo department of education was arrested in connection with the dumping of school text books in Giyani.
According to Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi, a 44-year-old man was charged with malicious damage to property.
"The school text books were found dumped in the Giyani area during the weekend of 29 June to 1 July. The books were mathematics for Grade 8 and numeracy in Sepedi for Grade 3," he said.
There were several incidences where text books were dumped and destroyed, while schools in the province had been without books for seven months. Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga called for the culprits to be arrested, saying "We feel this is now an act of sabotage, and we call upon the police to arrest these culprits without further delay."
Due to this sabotage, there is now a severe problem with the lack of school text books in the Limpopo province of South Africa, and President Jacob Zuma has put the blame squarely on apartheid-era Prime Minister H.F. Verwoerd.
On July 22, Zuma said in an interview on Talk Radio 702, “What is happening today is what Verwoerd did, where the black majority were historically not given education.”
“We are dealing with a system which had put black people back for centuries,” Zuma said.
He also defended Basic Education Minister, Angie Motshekga and the government on the Limpopo text book scandal.
South African political analyst, Andre Duvenhage, said that Zuma was just trying to deflect the problem from his own government, that was unable to bring about changes in education in the 18 years the party has been in power.
“Verwoerd was not the best politician, but the democratic government led by the ANC needs to take responsibility instead of blaming him."
"It is easy for Zuma and the ANC to blame others for the failures in education, which is an attempt to shift attention from the responsibility of the ANC government,” he said.
And now a former anti-apartheid activist, Mamphela Ramphele has said in Durban at the weekend that the "monumental failure" in South African education is not the fault of Verwoerd, but is the fault of the current government.
Ramphela said children under apartheid’s “gutter” education were better educated than they are today.
“By Jove, at least the kids could write and read. And many of them understood history and understood geography,” she said.
She further said that she could not understand why "no heads were rolling" over the scandal and why the citizens of South Africa were not “jumping up and down” about the crisis.
She added that South Africa could self-destruct before 2020, "if it continued on this downward trajectory," and that the time has come to question the credentials of South Africa's leaders.
Ramphele pointed out that in Asian countries, the government was made up of qualified people - "engineers, finance experts, architects, lawyers, people with experience and technical expertise - who were capable of directing, intervening and managing a modern political and economic system."
“Look at us. Give me a profile of our cabinet and tell me whether or not the capacity to intervene and direct is there. You can’t even deliver text books,” she said.
In addition to Ramphele's outburst, Mary Metcalf, education professor at Wits university, told the meeting that education in South Africa was a “burning platform that was disappearing under the nation’s feet despite it being critical for survival."
Metcalfe added that a 2007 educational survey had found two million students had not attained matriculation and, of those, half had not passed grades 7 and 8.
She asked: “With what sense of self-esteem and belonging and worth? And what did we do to them in the time that they were in our schools that gave them a sense of dignity and self-worth and the possibility of contributing to society?”
On the subject of the lack of text books, Ramphele said, “There’s no excuse why a child anywhere should not have text books, let alone thousands upon thousands of children whose futures are being destroyed on our watch.”
She also blasted the South African Democratic Teachers' Union, saying that they were letting the country down, “Particularly in the poorest areas, teachers are failing us … and when you look into what the problem is, you find that teachers are being forced to defend mediocrity.”
More about South Africa, Education, verwoerd, Anc, Government
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