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Jolanda Andrag
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The Apathy of SA’s Academics

24 April 2014, 18:25

With SA’s leading opposition party, the DA, feeling uncomfortable in its own skin, traditional white farmers joining the EEF, the uncertain future of the ANC as ruling party, the frustrated workers class, the ANC’s radical land and transformation plans and a president who is reluctant to face justice, South Africans need to sit down and talk.

The road towards the future will be unnecessarily rocky if we don’t address issues like unemployment, education, corruption and service delivery. The time has come to redefine what it means to be South African and more importantly what South Africans, from Sandton to rural Qunu, define as development.  We need to decide on the image we want to portray and start making plans around that nationally shared idea.

The people who can help us with this process are our academics. Yes, the people situated in dusty offices around the country are the answer. The time for sharing their knowledge with the general public is long overdue.  The notion of “publish or perish” which is many academics life motto needs to change.

A democracy only works effectively when everybody realise the role they play and the role they can play and take heart to do so.  At this stage apathy is our greatest enemy. Academics need to stop sitting on the side lines criticizing and analysing the game played out in front of them. They need to step in and guide our politicians and policy makers and not just guide, but actively help them formulate and implement policies.   The role of an academic doesn’t stop at education and research when one is in the position to create platforms, not only for debate but also for partnerships with political institutions or ever parties or unions.

Imagine the possibilities if our parties were guided to choose constituencies that actually suit their policies. If they were guided in articulating the needs of people or guided on how to run election campaigns effectively, especially in this season of opportunism.  Imagine the possibility of people like Prof. Jonathan Jansen, rector of the University of the Free State and well-known critic of our education system, creating a platform for cooperating with the Department of Education, on how to fix the education department. Imagine the possibility of political scientists along with sociologists, corporate experts and labour relations gurus, sitting down and talking the Rustenburg mining issue through.

Our future is not in the hands of the ANC or any other political party for that matter, nor is it in the hands of foreign countries or any other influential political entity. Our future lies in the hands of every South African. The problems we have are man-made and can therefore be fixed by man. That is why it is so important for every one of us to fulfil our roles with passion especially academics.

The Johantan Jansen’s of South Africa need to take a bite of confidence and get their hands dirty. The people with knowledge and the know-how need to stop being apathetic. One day history will look back in disgust on those who were able to bring about positive change and did not do so.

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