Chris Moerdyk

Stop complaining and do something

2013-03-18 08:52

Chris Moerdyk

If bitching and moaning were an Olympic sport, I reckon South Africa would win the gold medal by a mile.

Sure, we might well have a lot to complain about after having been let down so badly after the euphoria of the Nelson Mandela presidency.

But, I wonder just what would happen if all that energy we are expending in complaining to friends, family and on radio talk shows, could be used to actually do something about whatever it is that we are complaining about.

What prompted me to think about this was a conversation I had with Sue Fontannaz who runs a company called Argo which is involved in the education sector.

She wondered if South Africans were getting frustrated with hearing negative stories all the time? And whether they would ever realise that bad news and dwelling on what’s wrong, won’t ever fix the problem.

An unfortunate habit

She is right, I reckon, because every dinner party and office conversation seems to focus on "what's wrong with the country".

There has been a considerable amount of criticism of South Africa's basic education in recent years. A lot has been unquestionably justifiable. The thing is, merely standing on a soapbox a decrying the state of education is not going to fix the problem. It is, I have to say, an unfortunate South African habit - wailing and gnashing of teeth accompanied by vociferous criticism and particularly of "addressing issues" with a paucity of solutions and lack of action.

Sue quoted Teddy Rooseveldt: "It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again ...who spends himself in a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly".

She added that very little media attention is given to those who are actually in the arena, perhaps because by their very nature they are far too busy doing what is right to have time for any form of adulation. Even the most superficial glance behind the scenes in this country will show a vast number of NGOs and philanthropic organisations devoted to improving the standard of basic education and the quality of teaching.

Just have a look, for example, at what Professor Jonathan Jansen is doing at the University of the Free State with its inspiring outreach programme that is hugely successful in improving the quality of teaching. Look at what Dr Ramphele Mamphele has done in creating a far-reaching organisation that devotes much of its efforts to improving education. And Sue's own company Argo.

Do something

There are many, many more like them who are making an enormous contribution.

Just about everyone I know has had kids go to one of the 150 MasterMaths centres around South Africa and I can't imagine how many previously maths-dysfunctional school kids are now scientists, engineers and so forth.

It would be great if not only those who complain could roll up their sleeves  and do something in spite of the fact that government is not be doing its job properly.

And it would be great if the media could, every now and then, highlight people who are solving the problem rather than just spotlighting those who are causing the problem.  

- Follow Chris on Twitter.

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