60th Anniversary of the Bantu Education Act – South Africa desperately needs quality education

This month, 60 years ago, the Bantu Education Act (full text) was promulgated. This evil piece of legislation has damaged the people and potential of South Africa inestimably. The Act was the brainchild of the Apartheid Minister of Native Affairs, Hendrik Verwoerd. Author Alex Parker wrote the following on Verwoerd and the Bantu Education Act:

“In a crime of lasting and monumental proportions, [Verwoerd] penned and promulgated the 1953 Bantu Education Act. There is no better person than Verwoerd himself to articulate how he felt about the education of black people:

“There is no place for [blacks] in the European community above the level of certain forms of labour,” he declared. “What is the use of teaching the Bantu child mathematics when it cannot use it in practice? That is quite absurd. Education must train people in accordance with their opportunities in life, according to the sphere in which they live.”

Blacks were, as [Verwoerd] put it, destined to be “hewers of wood, and drawers of water”. In a stroke, Verwoerd has stolen the opportunity of a better life from them… [T]he education system he decreed on generations of South African blacks remains, even today, one of the most damaging aspects of his legacy.”

It is against the sort of sentiment expressed above that we should judge the quality of education in South Africa today. If there ever was an opportunity to over-compensate in the measure of corrective action, it would be education in democratic South Africa. Had our governments since 1994 made quality education their number one priority, South Africa would be a fundamentally better country today.

Verwoerd was an evil thief. The man and everyone who supported him, stole the opportunity for a more prosperous life from millions of South Africans.

Imagine, instead, that in 1953 the state had decided to prioritise the education of all South Africans regardless of race. Imagine that the government understood that quality education was the most significant contributor to providing productive human resources to power our economy. Imagine a South Africa today where our education system had been providing quality education for 60 years to all races. Imagine how different our country would be, how much better all of our lives would be.

Every day we waste tolerating an education system crippled by corruption and the stranglehold of unions, we prolong the crime against our people that was committed in 1953.

To the Justice Verma Committee

LETTER

To the Justice Verma Committee

I visited India in 2009 and to this day consider it the most interesting and friendly country I have ever visited. I would return in an instant if the opportunity arose.

India is known the world over for its association with peace, spirituality and vibrance. The Satyagraha that Mr Gandhi developed while in my country, South Africa, was pivotal to your nation’s own independence.

When I visited in 2009, it was clear then that, not unlike my own country, the general populace were beginning to grow very concerned with the disconnect between those elected to lead the country and the needs of the people. Corruption and all the ills associated with it seem to be a growing trend in developing countries like ours.

In South Africa we are just emerging from possibly the deadliest festive season in history as far as traffic fatalities are concerned, with an estimated 1600 people to have been killed on our roads in the past month. Corruption and poor management are to blame, with Police not doing enough about drunk and reckless driving, and other departments failing in their duty to keep unroadworthy vehicles off the roads.

I use this example because it shows how a government that no longer has its finger on the pulse, a government which is focused on political games and self-enrichment, is a government which does little to make the lives of their citizens, most especially the poor, any better.

The grotesque crime against Jyoti Singh Pandey in your country has been closely followed in mine. South Africa has one of the highest incidence of rape in the world and it is said that nearly two thirds of all South African men are rapists, just worse than the around one quarter of Indian men.

Rape in South Africa is another example of a serious issue which affects the lives of South Africans significantly and yet goes relatively unaddressed by our elected leaders. I expect our leaders to speak out on a regular basis about rape, gender discrimination, and the broader ills affecting our society caused by corruption but they do not.

But far more than that, in the second decade of the 21st century, it is high time that leaders started to actively do something about these crimes. The ability and willingless of our respective government machinery to investigate and prosecute rape cases leaves much to be desired. Often far more debilitating than the lack of competent forensic facilities, is the attitude of the investigators and other officials to the crime. Too many men regard rape as something that women must just get over, and far too many more regard rape as something that certain women ask for.

To that I say the following: “Rape is not something that happens to a certain type of woman. Rape is something perpetrated by a certain type of man.”

We need to sensitise our societies and sharpen our law enforcement to the point where the most despised and most harshly punished individuals are the perpetrators of rape.

A political leader who has an interest in maintaining access to the levers of power they so desire would do well to take this and related issues very seriously going forward. The Arab Spring of the past two years has shown the world that the general populace of any country, especially the youth, will tolerate only so much before they revolt. We needn’t ever learn that lesson again.

Please consider signing the petition here and sending an email to the Justice Verma Commission yourself.

Faithfully
Warwick Chapman
eThekwini, South Africa