What is happening to our country as we lose our leaders of old

Russel made some good points (read them below) when he paid tribute to Kader Asmal who died last week. Following Ma Sisulu’s death, and with the older generation of leadership passing on, South Africans are asking who is left as the guardian of the ANC heritage. Comment here and let’s get a blog discussion going.

The Death of Professor Kader Asmal-Former Minister of Education

Dear Colleagues,

I am truly saddened by the death of Professor Kader Asmal. His death, like that of Ms Sisulu, makes the painful point that we are steadily losing outstanding South Africans who meant so much to us younger folks. And my trepidation is this: with these golden folks gone, we have to forge on, and with that, comes a terrifying sense of responsibility. And the immediate
question: what does it mean to be a responsible South African and African given the state of the continent and the world?

Apart from his struggle contributions, Kader Asmal came to be important to me because of his elevation to the position of Minister of Education a few years ago. He was robust and tackled issues head on. He commissioned a review of the education system and returned devastatingly negative answers.
Thus, he was willing to measure the size of the problem and proposed swift answers to these social and educational puzzles. Those of us who followed him realized earlier on that he was trapped in paradigms that would minimise his education contribution:

He believed, like his boss (Presdient Mbeki), that education services must be delivered to the people by the government. Thus, a dynamic bureaucracy was required to deliver results to the people.

Two, he believed that if you improve service delivery, you begin to solve the education quality conundrum.

Both assumptions are wrong because education cannot be “delivered”-it is a joint enterprise where at best all of us have roles; these roles make us vulnerable especially if role duties are not carried out; it is thus a co-dependency enterprise where “service delivery” is interminable, is not discreet and requires everyone to bring something to the mix etc. It is not
like giving a grant to a beneficiary.

Successful education also requires “integration”, which in SA means both racial and class integration. While the middle classes are now freely mixing at schools, all middle classes are refusing to have their kids educated alongside children from poor communities. If there was something that we (the middle class) are not going to do is sacrifice our children’s future in an already competitive SA. We admit to the trauma that these other children suffer and are fully aware that should we integrate, our children’s futures are in doubt. Sadly, Kader Asmal was caught in the same paradigm and was unable to move powerful policy-makers to a new consensus position: that SA can only be healed, grow dynamically and take its place among African nations if we forge a new politics, a new awareness that our futures are inextricably linked. That social class had to be confronted and not the phoney politics of race and racial equality. Certainly not the Super 15 rugby Soweto variety (which is another example of middle classes mixing and socializing), but true transformation with COSTS and REWARDS. And negotiations towards a new social compact.

These limitations were not his alone but that of an entire society obsessed with getting ahead. For example poor teaching is  related to poor training, but also because teachers were/are no longer comparing themselves to other teachers. They are comparing themselves to brothers, sisters and relatives who have made it, earning big etc. The thought of having to do all this work and be paid so “little” is part of the reason for the destruction of public services. The strong economic pull of post apartheid SA continues to take its toll (nurses and doctors feel the same and no longer compare themselves to nurses and doctors).

In spite of his limitations in transforming education, he was so alive, so challenging and always a pleasure to listen to whether you agreed or not with his position. And he made education sexy again, “interesting” again.
During his tenure, education was reflected in newspapers on a daily basis.
Today, I have to scratch for real education stories.

He will be missed!

Love and water,


One Response

  1. Seems like he was a great man.

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