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Helpmekaar not preparing learners for the real world

2017-07-31 14:58

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Rams Mabote

On Saturday past my son's school was playing rugby against Helpmekaar Kollege. 

For a second I couldn't help feeling sorry for those Helpmekaar boys. In my view, these amazing boys are brought up in a society that's going to leave them so confused and possibly, at some point, angry. 
At home and at school, they are cushioned in a cocoon of Afrikanerdom. They speak the same language, they are all white and they almost look alike. That's the ideal their families and school want for them.

But in reality they have to coexist with other people. They have to play against mixed race schools, fathom black referees (like on Saturday), be forced to acknowledge and applaud black players from the other school(s).
I use the word “forced” to make a point. I do not necessarily believe that the boys would not want to applaud their peers. But spending their lives at home and at school where they do not have black peers, acknowledging black people is not what they do all the time.

When these fine young men are done with school, they enter the real world. They have to go to university or work. And those worlds do not look like Helpmekaar anymore.
Even the bastions of Afrikaner Christian National Education – Stellenbosch University, Pretoria University, Potchefstroom University (now part of the North-West University), and the University of the Free State (UFS) are now transformed (or transforming) and some have black vice chancellors. The former Rand Afrikaans Universiteit (RAU) is already dead. It is now a black university for all intents and purposes.
I am told that UFS has now done away with Afrikaans as an official language. That cannot be easy for any of the boys who may have wanted to trek to Bloemfontein for post matric studies.

The workplace is also not protected anymore. Employment equity is now law. Companies are now required to recognise diversity in their employment practices. Even Media24, for which I am writing this piece, which will be translated into Afrikaans, is no longer the same as the Naspers of the 1940s.
Even if some of these young men will end up in family businesses, they will have to trade with black clients, mixed raced buyers or suppliers, government laws that envisage transformation as well as a country that simply no longer worships white Afrikaner supremacy.

Moral of the story? Parents are not doing their children any favours by grooming them in false or pretentious worlds that do not resemble the real world. 
By so doing instead, they are breeding a cohort of young men who are going to be angry, frustrated and who will feel threatened by the real world different from their "own". 
Invariably this leads to other societal headaches: anger and angst almost always leading to (mass) race attacks as well as depression and suicides.

If you do not believe me, just look at some of the racial incidents in places like the United States. The majority of the culprits have been found to have grown in societies that did not embrace diversity, and often preached hatred.
Societies that foster exclusiveness are most likely to breed dislike or distrust of the other – black, Hispanic, homosexual, Muslim or Jew. Some societies bring up boys in an environment where they disrespect women. Rape, abuse and misogyny are always the result.
I am not for one minute suggesting that Helpmekaar is necessarily a racist school. It could very well be. I do not know it enough to make that call. But I am certain that with its race exclusive make-up, it is a much more fertile ground for racism and prejudice.
How does Helpmekaar differ from the black schools all over our townships? You cannot even compare.
The black township schools are a symptom of our past, the same past that created Helpmekaar in separate development. The difference is that with Helpmekaar, unlike township schools, it is parents insisting that their boys must grow and learn in racially and linguistically exclusive schools.
I know there is a positive argument to be made for mother tongue education, and I lament that we are losing that. But we know that schools like Helpmekaar are more about white Afrikaners, not Afrikaans.
We have a duty to protect our children from violence and bullies, from hunger and need, from fear and prejudice. 
But we also have a responsibility not to shield them away from the real world and live our perverted and bigoted lives vicariously through them.
- Mabote is a reputation expert and social commentator. Follow him on Twitter: @ramsbythehorns

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