Faith Daniels

'Vuwani is burning. Do you care?'

2016-05-12 12:41

Faith Daniels

It's amazing what occupies the national psyche and what we deem important. Race and matters of race are our national pastimes. And rightly so because we are indeed still "a country under construction", to quote former Cabinet minister Sydney Mufamadi, who was recently extensively interviewed on radio.

It's important to have these issues ironed out in the public domain until we get to a point where we don't have to address the blatant racism we see and read about every single day. But at what cost? And how far do we take it? We've already had a fundraiser for an offended waitress. What's next? And, before you start penning your response to me, take a moment, breathe and read on.

While we take to Twitter and Facebook to vent our frustration over the latest racist outburst, other critical issues are begging for attention, staring us in the face, screaming at us to take note. Yet we are already yelling so loudly that we don't seem to notice.

In a matter of days more than 20 schools in Vuwani in Limpopo were vandalised and torched as the community protested their incorporation into a new municipality. The basic education department says it will cost more than half a billion rand to rebuild  the schools. This in a province that has a deplorable education history.

Let's not forget, just a few years ago education was one of the departments placed under national administration here.

And who can forget the textbook scandal that rocked schools here in 2012 – with children waiting months and months for said textbooks to be delivered?

This is the province where more than 36,000 pupils failed matric last year. Also the same province where some schools have achieved a 0 percent pass rate in the past. In 2015 one school was singled out for this disastrous record, despite the fact that it only had 10 learners in matric.

The education department faced a cash flow problem back in 2012 during the textbook scandal – and almost five years later teachers union SADTU says the Limpopo province is bankrupt and it's appealing for Vuwani  to be declared a disaster area and for the army to move in to set up structures for the scores of children in limbo.

But there's no telethon for the children of Vuwani. There's no petition to demand government action. There's no outpouring of support for the children whose future hangs in the balance. We condemn the fact that protesters can't respect institutions of learning and go on with our lives. Yes, and? What happens next? Is it not up to us to save Vuwani? If we don't, who will? Surely one of our most desperately poor provinces is worthy of the same vigour and action that we devote to whats trending on the day? Is it not important? Do we not care?

In the current climate and discourse, consider these words by American writer Toni Morrison: "The function, the very serious function, of racism is distraction. It keeps you from doing your work. It keeps you explaining, over and over again, your reason for being. Somebody says you have no language and you spend 20 years proving that you do. Somebody says your head isn't shaped properly so you have scientists working on the fact that it is. Somebody says you have no art, so you dredge that up. Somebody says you have no kingdoms, so you dredge that up. None of this is necessary. There will always be one more thing."  

No one can argue with this: In Vuwani there's certainly much work to be done and we cannot afford to be distracted.

- Faith Daniels is a seasoned radio and TV journalist, and is currently head of news at Kagiso Media’s Jacaranda FM and East Coast Radio.

Disclaimer: News24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24.

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