Academics, your country needs you now

2012-07-21 10:03

My gripe with our youth leaguers is that they fathomlessly conclude that we old geezers shun “economic freedom” in our lifetime.

Yet they know and acknowledge, yearly, when they celebrate the Class of 1976, that we spent an inordinate amount of time back then directly fighting to undo the rotten education system forced down our throats by the undemocratic apartheid government.

Contextually, it is almost unthinkable that we can marry the concepts of “the second transition”, “second phase” or “economic freedom” with our Constitution, which firmly entrenches some of the fundamental economic rights of those whose hands still grip our economy fully.

The minority in charge of our economy will litigate in the Constitutional Court if we were we to tamper with their pecuniary interests.

Besides, even if we were to compensate them so that the “second transition phase” or “economic freedom” could kick in, the amount of compensation required is prohibitive. The market economic value of these minority hands captaining our economy now is simply beyond our reach.

Perhaps this explains our admission that black economic empowerment can never be deemed the appropriate vehicle to solve our problems.

The majority of us are still extremely previously disadvantaged in several ways. Service delivery protests in our rural areas and black townships attest to this.

Second transition or economic freedom notwithstanding, a more complex problem threatens the pillars of our being: education. In 1976 we, as students, refused to be fed an education system that only served to domesticate us.

We lost valuable schooling time, not in terms of hours or days, but years. In some quarters we were called the lost generation.

Today it is not the apartheid system depriving young people of democratically entrenched rights to education. The democratic ­system simply fails to satisfy this constitutional imperative. Ironically, education is one of our top priorities policywise.

It now defies logic that the education system seems to be crumbling when it is reasonably well-resourced compared with other departments.

Students of today, through no fault of their own, run the risk of also being referred to as a lost generation.

That we are gradually failing to develop and sustain an education and training system that will propel us as a country to compete with the likes of China in the 21st century is an understatement.

Our practising academics, bar Professor Jonathan Jansen, the rector of the University of the Free State, are seemingly not there to give us direction amid this growing problem of falling standards.

Higher education is an essential driver of development globally. I am not sure if our institutions of higher learning can pronounce themselves proudly as key to developing our country at the moment.

 The public sector and the private sector alike relentlessly bemoan the quality of professionals churned out of this “knowledge” conveyor belt.

Auditor-General Terence Nom­bembe in May this year complained about the quality of accounting reports that government departments submitted to his office.

Chief executive of the Law Society of SA Nic Swart said research indicates that law graduates’ skills in writing and numeracy are wanting. Surprisingly, our academics in institutions of higher learning remain silent when indications are that action or some comment from them is needed to at least explain how they intend remedying this chronic problem.

Maybe Parliament’s portfolio committee on higher education should call our esteemed professors in charge of tertiary institutions to come and account for this situation.

» Advocate Muofhe writes in his personal capacity as part of the Class of 1976

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