GOB!G Quote of the Day

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Free university education

Black people in South Africa will continue to struggle economically. I was reminded of this when I came across an overwhelming mass of strikers who were planning to storm Pretoria Academic Hospital demanding better percentage increase on their wages - everybody who was inside working had to duck for cover.

Now, everybody in the overwhelming crowd was black. All the strikers - black. No one in that crowd was white. I wondered if all public servants in South Africa were black, and I subjectively concluded NO!

Perhaps it's not in the white man's style to strike. But a black man achieved all that he has achieved by far through mass marches. And wage hike is no different. But the black man is still poor in this country. And just why am I thinking that the black man will be poor in South Africa for many decades to come?

It's because we get ripped off by our very own government that we support at the voting station.

The black kid (and some white kids) are nailed to a coffin with the monumental TEFSA/NSFAS tertiary education loans that never end. At the same time, the majority of their parents have to make ends meet with meager salaries that are so distant from the government bosses in this country.

My wish, to the above, is that the many millions of rands wasted in this country be spent to subsidise tertiary education to a level such that the student leaves university not owing a thing - but good toil and sweat for his country. Free higher education.

The monies that are squandered from the taxpayers coffers surely can contribute a lot towards such a cause. And the loss, if any made, will surely be offset by a mass of an educated generation. I have no doubt there are many black kids out there who can cut it at university but are prejudiced because their parents can't get a mere 10% wage increase on their already peanuts income to put these kids through tertiary.

I wish this mass strike could be emulated by youth in this country joining forces and demanding zero corruption, free university education (on merit), wipe-off of current TEFSA/NSFAS debt and more free education. There's nothing wrong with that cause since the country is suffering from a haemorrhaging skills pool anyway.

I say free higher education in South Africa, zero debt to all graduates owing government institutions and 10% increase to all my parents, uncles, aunts, cousins and more out there. Lest we all black people stay poor for many generations to come whilst our government leaders are getting obese with taxpayers money. Our money. And remember, the wealthy do not pay taxes - they merely just recycle it. It's the lumpenproletariat who religiously do.

"Judge of a man by his questions, rather than by his answers." - Voltaire


Steve Hayes said...

When the strike started, there were photos in the newspapers showing black and white strikers marching together.

The government fat cats recently voted themselves obscene increases. Their moralising to stikers would be more convincing if they had limited their own increases to 6%.

And yes, I agree with you on free higher education. It's a good investment, as Singapore has shown. My daughter went to university in Greece -- we could never have afforded to educate her in South Africa. And now the EU and IMF and World Bank etc are trying to get Greece to dropp the free tertiary education.

And why does Greece have free tertiary education? They have a public holiday, Polytechniou, to commemorate the liberation of the country by students at the polytechnic, which ended the rule of the colonels who had staged a military coup in 1967, and tyrannized the country. It's the equivalent of our 16 June.

Israel Izz Mlambo said...

Hi Steve. Very insightful thoughts on free education. I like that. I hadn't gone to the extent of checking on how the other countries policies are around tertiary education, but I'd heard whilst at Rhodes from some Scandanavian visiting students that theirs is free or near-free.

Regarding the strikers and race, I was merely bringing out my observation of the specific march to Pretoria Academic Hospital. At least I meant to do only that. But we have to agree that the on the main they are black, and not because the majority of the country is black. But because the most in underpaid positions are black - and this draws me back to getting people into tertiary.

Szavanna said...

Hi there, I am from Hungary so a lot of these issues are completely new to me. Issues around race and also issues around the cost of education.

In Hungary education was free (I don't know the situation right now) from primary to tertiary level. I was actually given money monthly so that I could study without having to work as well in the same time. Healthcare was also free. It's unbelievably difficult to get by here - I wonder many times how people survive with the little they have.

I don't think the government will be able to fix things in the near future - even if they really really wanted to - it's all up to each person to contribute towards a solution (and I believe eveyone can contribute regardless of background ).

We have been running a small initiative called the OpenCafe (www.opencafe.co.za) here in Potchefstroom - which is based on open source principles. Open source projects are based on the fact that the Internet provides us with big databases on info, training manuals, etc. all "open licensed", all you need to do is - print it out, go through it - then do the exam or project. In other words it completely leaves out the idea of formal education. (Which is important here since a lot of people cannot afford it.) I approached a lot of teachers (from different backgrounds)from primary to tertiary level locally and discussed possible projects that would help put lessonplans, and other material online and create big databases that could be used by smaller schools and even those that can't afford formal education. I haven't heard of the teachers again.

We started our project back in 2000 - since then we have met a lot of people - young and old - we tried to make sure we reach everyone - and told them about the projects we do (these projects are completely free - participants must agree to a specific weekly program to participate ) and a few people (very very few) took the opportunity of the free lessons (computer skills, typing skills, web design, book publishing lessons, graphic design, small business skills etc.) however most others didn't see an opportunity there.

So my question is - to what extent does one depend on formal education - I think a lot can be done by the individual to learn skills, take exams (I have seen it work even with people from real difficult backgrounds) and many times it's the will that is missing to change and come up with solutions where the government doesn't provide one.

The OpenCafe project has been experimenting with lots of ideas, edu-projects of all kinds (one of them specifically is providing free education)- we are still in the beginning, lots to be done - any feedback and suggestions are appreciated.

Israel Izz Mlambo said...

I visited the open cafe and had a serious browse on it. What that organisation is doing is quite amazing.

I wish that many people in the community can see and embrace the opportunities and benefits of projects such as Open Cafe.

It will take some time before those who need help realise that they do need help and it is available, that it is their effort and will that is missing and lacking. It will take time.

But the efforts of the provider have to always be available just in case the majority of those in needed come to see the light that's been shinining so brightly in their midst, albeit with them ignorant of it.

I think more publicity is needed, particualarly in the popular media that the target market interacts with. Daily Sun and Sowetan can provide a platform to practice such PR so that the target market can know about these forms of free education.

Szavanna said...

Hi Izz - thanks for your words - very much appreciated. I probably went on about a topic that is not so closely linked to the strikes.

When I see all the people striking (my two sons were also at home today - the school advised us to stay home) I just wonder and wonder - what can one do.

Strikes are new to me - in Hungary people didn't use to protest - we used to accept things as they were - we were lucky to have a setup which was livable enough. Making your voice heard is very important - and I see that everyday on the news - but to what extent can one achieve results with strikes like this? I feel the problems are so big - there should be various options and solutions - so that one can tackle a situation from as many angles as possible and strikes should be one of the many things people should be doing.

My option is the OpenCafe - this is what I enjoy doing and I see results every day - but probably there are many projects/people out there that have achieved good results.

Ours is a very small project and could not handle too many students - a better option for us is to teach "teachers" that can then set up their own schools/community centers so we are busy compiling a manual that will explain how to set up an open source internet cafe from scratch and how to run it as a training center.

Israel Izz Mlambo said...

That manual would be very useful. I think in my village the concept of OpenCafe is necessary and can help out.

My kids didn't get immunised because of the strike. We went to the hospital and we were turned away indefinitely - as long as the strike is still going on.

I think government must just pay up as much as it can afford to - say 8% and then after that,work hard with the Unions to devise more holistic and calm negotiation methods that don't prejudiced the innocent like your two kids and my two little daughters.

Szavanna said...

We will see how this turns out. Right now there is so much mixup - the principal is always outside watching the kids - and there are all sorts of new rules - where to go what to do... I hope it is all worth it since it is not an easy situation for anyone ...