Faith Daniels

Who will fix education? Certainly not our president

2016-11-29 12:19

Like many others, I heard our president speaking in the National Assembly last week. President Jacob Zuma sounded completely unaware of the definition of a democracy, because apparently lying is covered in that. Yes, lying, as in not telling the truth, is right up there with the freedom to speak your mind, according to the president. Furthermore, he was dismissive of the possibility of a ratings downgrade, because, you see, these things happen, and it’s no biggie.

Zuma’s performance in Parliament took me back to a recent conversation with a unionist. We talked about the fact that prominent ANC leaders, past and present, are now adding their voices to a growing number of individuals calling on the president to leave his job.

After a damning Public Protector report on state capture, an embarrassing attempt to stop it from being made public and revelations about just how many times certain individuals were in the Saxonwold area, we are all feeling the pressure. We are tired. All we want to do is say enough now. Stop it. That’s why it’s good to know that some of these prominent leaders feel the same way, that they are not out of touch with the realities of South Africa, which is losing a chunk of its credibility each and every day.

During my conversation with the unionist, he asked: While everyone is worried about their positions and clinging to power, what is happening with our teachers? That’s a valid question. And it could be applied to so many of the decaying sectors in our society. Recently there was another matric exam leak in the Limpopo province. How much longer must we wait to have a glitch-free matric exam? For years now, we’ve grown accustomed to the fact that something will go wrong with the matric exams and that quality assurer Umalusi will cite grave concerns about the performance of candidates, but eventually give the green light for results to be released.

The unionist decried the fact that the Limpopo province has a crisis in its leadership, but it’s larger than that. Much larger. Over the past few days we’ve seen a ruling party at loggerheads over the position of their president – the person who leads the party and the country. We have ministers standing up and clearly stating their lack of confidence in President Zuma to lead. We have senior party members talking about factionalism and a party at a crossroads. We are all waiting with bated breath to hear whether Zuma will survive this current political tsunami sweeping through his party. It’s nearly impossible to focus on anything else.

Still, when all is said and done, the pressing day-to-day issues must be addressed. Long after Zuma, our children, as with the #FeesMustFall campaign, will judge us harshly and demand that we address their needs. We can keep pretending that we didn’t know what was coming and face the consequences. It’s like the beginning of the school year, every single year, without fail. There will be some children who don’t find a space. There will be children waiting to start their education until the end of January. And officials will tell you that this is a result of the growing demand for education. If you know that, then why didn’t you make the necessary arrangements sooner?

It is more than just appalling when, years into our democracy, we let our leaders get away with describing major problems as “challenges”; that we let our president get away with saying “there is a plan” to deal with our university crisis, and that we are okay with a body like the South African Council for Educators warning bogus teachers to leave the system before action is taken against them.

When did we get to this point where we see wrongs being committed and warn people to run before they face what must actually happen to them – criminal prosecution? How will this inability to act help our children and the good, honest, qualified teachers sitting at home without jobs?

It is not a good place to be. It is not acceptable to describe the rising temperature and discontent as par for the course in a democracy. We shouldn’t settle for counting ourselves lucky that we can criticise the government for doing the minimum and less.

I am tired of press conferences about the strides that have been made “but we still have a long way to go”. When is this long way ending? When do we get the country and the president we deserve?

Yes, Zuma’s departure won’t solve all our problems, but it’s a good start.

* 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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