OPINION | 'I don't think this is an isolated stupid act - It comes from somewhere'

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Stellenbosch University's Huis Marais residence is in the news once again. Photo: Getty Images.
Stellenbosch University's Huis Marais residence is in the news once again. Photo: Getty Images.

Vanessa Raphaely, founder of The Village parenting community, shares her thoughts on the incident where a Stellenbosch University student urinated on the belongings of black student.

I admin a group of 45 000 primarily South African parents. I can confidently say that 99.9% of them would be mortified if their kids did anything near this. This is a vile act of disrespect, beyond anyone's perception of typical student "high jinks" or "bad behaviour."

I can say that frequently, a parent or parents will load a heartbroken post onto my Facebook group, The Village, about how their children have let them down, scared them and shocked them.

But the recent incident, where a white student was filmed urinating on the property of a black student at Stellenbosch University's Huis Marais residence, was particularly shocking to many.

As a mother, and founder of a large parenting community, my thoughts turned to this boy's family, his parents, and I considered how we find ourselves reading news items like this. 

Raising kids is messy and humbling. Kids throw up an unforgiving mirror to their parents' failures and frailties. They manifest our mistakes in our families and our wider communities. And that is in the "best of times."

We are not raising our kids in "the best of times."

South Africa has a brutal, ugly past and a terrifying and uncertain future. As South African parents facing economic hardship, fear and uncertainty, it can be tough to role model wisdom, calm, and decency.

Many families are broken, struggling, and scared. Scared parents can often be angry parents. Bitter parents.

Damage begets damage.

Read: Stellenbosch University suspends student caught on video urinating on peer's belongings 

Our leaders are not leading us out of this mess, leaving those supposed to follow and learn lost from previous generations.

Human beings flourish where there is certainty, stability, "enough," and the possibility of success. South Africa is not like that. It's no wonder our families, parents and children are in crisis.

And this act, ugly and horrifying as it is, is an act of concern - this boy has no respect for another human being. And no self-respect either, which points to deep scars, the failure of parenting.

But also the failure of society. It's a prevailing culture that allows and almost encourages this kind of activity.

Also read: 'Sadly, no driving need' for white racial literacy, says founder of the Racial Literacy Project

Drinking is pervasive on campuses, schools, and homes. So, sadly, in our country, is racism and anger.

I don't think this is an isolated "stupid" act. It comes from somewhere.

A culture of excessive drinking, toxic masculinity, old, unhealthy rituals and "traditions" are, in my opinion, at least slightly to blame. And they are not unique to that university. Or this country.

I'm not at Stellenbosch. None of my kids are. I don't know how deep and how practical transformation has been there. But we all know there's a considerable amount of wrong in our culture that needs undoing.

At the surface, kids, wherever they live, face a rising tide of loneliness, mental health issues and uncertainty. While bullying is a universal problem, boys have always urinated wherever they wanted.

Frat boys misbehave appallingly. Young men are not always models of decency and upstanding citizenship. Here, in South Africa, this vile behaviour is layered with many historical and generational wounds.

And horror.


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