It may be slow in coming, but ‘the pot will boil over eventually’

2013-09-18 00:00

THE raucous bunch of local politicians, the Congress of South African Students (Cosas), was at it again last week. It issued a statement lamenting all sorts of ills against school children.

Cosas complained about the poor provision of books, study materials and learning conditions. As they are wont, the members threatened mayhem — such as throwing out teachers who smoke inside the school premises — if their complaints are not addressed.

I heard many chuckles from people dismissive of Cosas. Among those were former members of the organisation who are now upstanding citizens in the corporate and government sector.

They have forgotten how they once used the same language against the state.

The only difference between now and then is that then, the state was the apartheid government, which functioned on the false belief in the racial supremacy of some over others.

What my friends and former school-mates missed from the Cosas statement was that for the many whom Cosas represents, things are exactly as they were when the National Party was in charge of this country.

Their schooling and conditions of learning are no different from the time their parents and grandparents were at school in the sixties or seventies.

Stories of children learning under trees and schools without toilets are legion. Many of these children are exposed to teachers who lack the required passion for the profession, which might have never existed in the first place, or it has been killed by a state that does not seem interested in improving their working conditions.

Either way, Cosas, in its customary raw and unrefined language, speaks the language of frustration and impatience of the many young people in this country.

Ours is a revolution long in the making. The advantage of such a slow-cooked uprising is that it is in the hands of those who have the power to decide whether to switch off the stove or to let things simmer.

But as any good cook would know, for as long as there is fire under the pot, whatever is inside will eventually cook, even if it takes triple the time it would ordinarily have taken.

Those who choose to mock and ridicule the likes of Cosas for its grammar or political education, along with many others they choose to call populist, do so at their own peril.

When the impatience of the young people boils over and we wake up one day to a June 16, 1976, people must not say that it came from nowhere.

They must not waste their time trying to find agents provocateurs, because the conditions for whatever happens on that day would have been long obvious to those willing to pay attention.

They should not ridicule or wish young people’s anger away.

The so-called ringleaders would have been people whose most important contribution to the manifested anger would be that they were in possession of a matchstick and box. They would have found the powder keg already there.

Present-day Cosas leaders might grow up and find better ways of expressing their frustrations.

But unless the next generation of young people stop being made to feel they are unwanted children of the much-vaunted new South Africa family, expect bad grammar from Cosas. But also expect the keg to explode at any time.

• Fikile-Ntsikelelo Moya is a freelance journalist and former editor of The Witness.

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