A practical solution

2010-03-23 00:00

IN the wicked old apartheid days, some of us were forced by the government to sacrifice two years of our son’s lives to the army. Many came back traumatised and brutalised, others stuck it out and waited for the nightmare to end.

Today, we have millions of young people emerging every year with or without a matric and no guarantee of a job. Those lucky enough to afford university or to be granted bursaries to further their studies, are the privileged few. But hundreds of thousands of hopefuls land up joining the unemployed and fall into a life of crime.

We need a government plan to take care of those who have fallen between the cracks. Something that will provide them with a goal in life and the skills to cope, while at the same time making a contribution to society.

Why not take two years of these young people’s lives and put them to good use?

If we had a series of kibbutz-style projects in the country, we could conscript the youth to do a two-year service of constructive work, during which we could instil in them important values that would impact positively on society by the time they emerged.

Each kibbutz would be equipped with facilities to train electricians, plumbers, builders, carpenters, motor mechanics and farmers, etc. It would have to be a highly organised and disciplined lifestyle which would necessitate working together as a team. A portion of the day would be spend cultivating the land and going into food production. Some time would be devoted to instructions on managing finances, birth control and life skills. Education in practical skills would take up the rest of the day. Evenings would be a time to relax and hobbies should be encouraged such as drama, woodwork, beadwork, pottery, leatherwork, etc. The results of these industries could also generate some income.

The labour of these young people could be used productively in helping to build houses for the poor.

The cost of setting up facilities like this would be great, but soon they could become self-supporting. When one considers that Jabulani Mabaso allegedly defrauded the education department of R220 million, and that provincial Finance MEC Ina Cronjé and Justice and Constitutional Development Minister Jeff Radebe are at present investigating an amount of R30 million which has been stolen within their departments, one realises how much money finds it way into the hands of unscrupulous officials. Just think how many kibbutzes could have been built with that alone.

Any vandalism or wilful damage to property would become the respon­sibility of those on the kibbutz and the cost of repairing such damage would be shared by everyone on the kibbutz. This way, culprits would quickly learn the consequences of their actions. Residents would be responsible for the upkeep and maintenance but this would be subsidised by the government. All the proceeds from the kibbutz would be shared. In other words, by committing yourself to this project, you become a shareholder for the two years of your service.

Of course, such a project demands a charismatic and dedicated leader. It would have to be someone who is firm but fair and commanded the respect of all. The whole scheme would not work unless there were firm disciplines in place. Penalties would be imposed for stepping out of line.

Some people, after their two years, may want to stay on as trainers for newcomers or simply want to engage more fully in food production. In this case, it may be necessary to provide a créche to supervise small children while their parents are at work and a clinic to cater for emergencies. Kitchen staff would be drawn from everybody. The idea is that all would have an opportunity on a rotor system to do different things to keep the kibbutz functioning and to expose themselves to a variety of experiences. It is a socialist system in that no job is more highly respected than any other, and every job is equally significant. Team work is essential.

Another advantage is that it would draw young people away from the cities and the temptation to enter into a life of crime.

Is such a system viable in this country? It is without doubt better than a low income grant which encourages a culture of entitlement and is a bit like applying a plaster to a rupturing wound.

These would be two years well spent, two productive years, unlike the destructive two years of military service to which some of our sons were subjected in the apartheid days. Hopefully, after their two years of compulsory service in a kibbutz, young people would emerge with skills that would enable them to find employment and make a contribution to society. Most importantly, they would have been exposed to a correct set of values and be better equipped to cope with the difficulties that await them.

The reason why a kibbutz system worked in Israel is because of the determination of the people to make it work. There was patriotism and pride and comradeship that made it possible. It was also a matter of survival. With an ever-increasing number of unemployed and destitute people, we in South Africa are in a crisis situation.What hope have we got of uplifting the poor if we do nothing but wring our hands at the escalating problem while our leaders make the right noises but do nothing? It is also a matter of survival.

We have no faith in our ability to do things honourably. We have visions of corruption, inefficiency, poor management, political interference, cultural divisions, power hungry officials, strikes, racism and unhappiness, because some work harder than others, and a complete lack of commitment and inability to work as a team. Please tell me this is not so.

A kibbutz (Hebrew: “gathering, clustering”; plural kibbutzim) is a collective community in Israel that was traditionally based on agriculture. Today, farming has been partly supplanted by other economic branches, including industrial plants and hi-tech enterprises. Kibbutzim began as utopian communities, a combination of socialism and Zionism. In recent decades, many kibbutzim have been privatised and changes have been made in the communal lifestyle. — Source Wikipedia.com

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