Afrikaans, racism and education – it's time to talk

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"Use live rounds. It's the only thing those stupid savages understand," writes Ivan Scott on Twitter in reaction to a News24 post showing a bloodied black man being treated for his rubber-bullet wounds after police fired shots outside Hoërskool Overvaal in Vereeniging.

"Call me that & your family will bury you Saturday. Then at your funeral I will shoot into your grave to make sure ukuthi you are dead & I mean really dead. We don't take insults the same. We carry different histories. Lesson: Keep your mouth clean. Don't insult people. Full stop," writes Shandu ka Ndaba on Twitter in response to a News24 video showing a black man claiming that a white Overvaal parent swore at them before being assaulted.

17 January 2018 became a low-point in contemporary South African history when a place that is supposed to be a safe space for children turned into a war zone for fighting adults.

News24's social media pages also turned into a battleground for people who violently assaulted each other - not with boots or bullets but with words. It was a tough day at the office for our colleagues who manage our Twitter and Facebook streams.

No words or phrases were too vile or violent to launch at "the other". The keyboard warriors were on fire and if it were up to them, a race war was the only logical conclusion to resolve the burning matter of access to education, language and racism.

The majority of South Africans, who I believe want the same thing – a good education and a better life for their children – were nowhere to be seen or heard. If you were a foreigner visiting South Africa and you only followed the coverage of the Hoërskool Overvaal fallout, you would be forgiven for making your way to OR Tambo International Airport as quick as possible out of fear for the impending race war between black and white.

And don't look to our politicians for leadership. Some were negotiating exit plans for their foes; others were stoking the fires of hatred on social media while the rest were battling for positions or fighting to survive another day of revelations or scandals. A quick visit to Hoërskool Overvaal to mediate between the fighting parties was not important enough to make their schedules.

For us to find any solution out of the mess that is basic education, we need to pause, switch off the cacophony for a moment and talk like adults who know that fixing our education system is the only way for South Africa to prosper.

Remaining silent if you are part of the middle ground is no longer an option. 

That's why we are inviting you today to tell us your story and how you think we should get out of this mess. Essentially, the Hoërskool Overvaal case is about access to quality education – something every South African parent wants for their kids.

How do we move faster to achieve universal quality education for all our children, irrespective of race or class? What can or should former model C-schools, who benefitted disproportionately from apartheid funding, do to assist in this process? What are the examples of communities who have successfully bridged this gap and how can the rest emulate them?

Are dual-medium schools the answer to problems of access? Can any state-funded school rationally argue to teach in only one language, that is not English? Have provincial governments done enough to ensure previously underfunded schools are improved substantially over the past 24 years? Where are the examples of excellence and what did they do right?

The questions are plentiful. But we want to hear your voice in this debate.

Tell us what you think. Send us your article of no more than 300 words and a profile picture on the MyNews24 portal or send an email to feedback@news24.com

- Basson is editor-in-chief of News24. Follow him on Twitter: @AdriaanBasson

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