We need a war in South Africa!
Good heavens, the reader will be thinking - is this man quite insane, haven't we got enough troubles already?
The war which is so urgently needed is the war yet to be fought, the war on ignorance. And please understand this word, it simply means 'lack of knowledge' and is not intended in any derogatory way - we are all ignorant of many things since nobody knows everything!
In 1994, whilst being very sceptical about the possibility of success in governing the country by our new 'rulers', I was not unhappy to see the backs of the dire National Party government since they were no friends of mine, as a 'rooinek' and who never did me any favours, saving those for the chosen few in the Broederbond, an organisation termed by one writer, Hans Strydom in his book entitled "The Super Afrikaners" (and like the ANC with it's few cronies, they were only a small percentage of Afrikaans people by the way).
Discussing the uncertain future with a successful young business person at that time, she said that "South Africa will be the best country in the world to live in 10 years from now!" How we wish that were true, but for myself and for most people it can never be the best or even close to that when millions languish in poverty through lack of employment opportunity!
Thankfully they are history and in 1994 it was with very cautious optimism that I could look forward with hope that we may rapidly see great change in SA and leading that change would not be bling, vast palaces in the middle of nowhere and vast enrichment for a select few but a real and rapid upliftment of the many.
Since it was so obvious to me that this was required and clearly an enlightened and forward-thinking government with the interests of the black people of SA, as the new ANC government loudly proclaimed at every opportunity would, I was certain then, begin very quickly with a well-planned programme to inculcate modern thinking, skills and knowledge, suited to the modern industrialised world in which we all make our livings, in the minds of all who required it.
Well, I am still waiting, but I fear, in vain!
This programme would offer, nationwide at education and skills centres to be fast-track constructed in every major town and some minor ones, absolutely free basic literacy and numeracy followed by accelerated courses in trade and artisan skills, such as electrician, mechanic, plumber, welder and so on across the whole gamut of trades.
Beyond that, the programme would offer those participating, a weekly stipend sufficient for them to maintain home and family, whilst in training. The training would of necessity be thorough and intense and would be of perhaps one year duration, covering theory and practical skills with a recognised and respected certificate at the end of it for those who succeeded. Those who did not apply themselves or could not keep up with the intensity of the course would simply be 'washed out' and then be given only one more opportunity to sign up for another year .
Where would the pool of skills be found to carry out the training? They would be drawn from wherever it could be found locally and of course there were then, in the mid-1990s many skilled and experienced people in numerous trades and skilled occupations, who would take on this task for a salary of course. I suspect that these very same people are still available, albeit somewhat older today but their knowledge is intact and their experience great, and this must be put to good use before it is no longer available.
In my estimation such a programme, the like of which has seemingly never been considered by the present government, would transform the social and economic landscape of this country within 10 years or less, by producing many thousands of basically-qualified skilled artisans, each year and ready to work. The majority would find work in established enterprises . Some would now be equipped and desirous of starting their own micro enterprises and here government would intercede with financial institutions, even stand guarantor as necessary, to fund small loans to assist in those start ups. The financial guarantee scheme would extend for 5 years after a person had qualified, standing ready and accessible for that period even for those who found employment but who later decided to strike out on their own. In this way small enterprise would be mightily encouraged, with a high chance of success, since those enterprises would be owned and operated by trained and skilled people, many of whom would have valuable work experience following their training. That same guarantee would also be available for those wishing to invest in further vocational training and skills-augmentation programmes and since they were now earning the loans could be repaid without difficulty. Another expansion could well be basic business skills course offered for those entrepreneurs. In fact matters could be structured to offer continuous and virtually lifelong support and assistance in career development etc - why not, since that ultimately would cost the taxpayer nothing at all?
Our major problem in this country, from which almost all other ills are generated, is joblessness and the poverty that goes hand-in-hand. This can never be fixed by grants or charity, nor even by the creation of temporary jobs lasting a month or two and less - but can only be remedied by bold and dynamic well-planned action on the part of government to equip those needing it with the wherewithal to 'kick-off' their economic life. Such a programme can do exactly this for hundreds of thousands of people over a mere few years! The knock on effect is likely to be enormous, thus cutting deeply into the rampant and seemingly insoluble unemployment problem which has faced SA for many years.
Such programmes have been used by other countries at times of serious unemployment and have gone far towards solving the problem. In Britain for example in about 1969 I became aware of a similar programme as outlined here - and it worked, by imparting much needed 'starter skills' to whoever applied for the training and who could meet the basic, very low requirements for entry.
Such a programme will cost a monstrous amount of money - perhaps just about everything we collectively pay in taxes - but just as in a real war, a country musters every resource it possibly can, putting aside for the duration all extravagances, frivolities and non-essentials in order to amass the power to complete the mission successfully, so too must the government of SA act. I am certain that all, black and white, coloured and Indian people of goodwill would put their shoulders to the wheel and support such a programme if it were made clear to them how necessary it is for the good of all in the long run. Since this war will last a maximum of 10 years and success is totally achievable I believe that a majority will be willing to make the necessary fairly minor sacrifices in lifestyle which may be required as funding is diverted from all but the absolute essentials in terms of government services etc for that period of time.
Knowledge truly IS power - and what brought to mind this proposed solution, which I have had in mind for many years, was watching a programme on TV which told the sad story of two young men in Randfontein who were conned out of large sums for spurious 'training' which was claimed to lead to employment in a skilled position on the mines. At least they are trying and I always have time for the 'tryers' of this world - but they deserve much better than this as do millions of others who can at present see no light at the end of their personal tunnel!
We need that war to begin in earnest sooner rather than later and I ask of our government - " Who will declare it - and drive and lead it with integrity, determination and honesty?"
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