Category Archives for "South Africa"

Fees Must Fall Is Flirting With Terrorism

Time to move the troops in?

Think about how moribund our basic education system is. Think about how many government school teachers never rock up to work. Think about poverty. Crime. Unemployment. Slums. Access to water. Our high abortion rates. Corruption.

I promise you varsity tuition costs are not the moral challenge of our time.

In the generally radical Freedom Charter, nowhere does it say university education should be free. If it didn’t occur to Communists sympathetic to Lenin and Stalin to ask for that, maybe the radicals burning universities down need to re-think their positions. Continue reading

Why South Africans Need to Be Punk Rockers

Life lessons from the rebels of the 1970s.

The Ramones

In the mid ‘70s, a group of musicians around the world began to revolt against the hippie and cocaine-addled rock ‘n roll scene which had come to dominate after the end of the ‘60s.

Bands like The Ramones in the US and The Clash in the UK stripped down music to its bare bones and inspired people all around the world to start their own bands in their garage.

The tempo was fast, the songs were short, and the music was full of anger and love.

But the main idea was that it didn’t matter if you were not that good at music – you could pick up an instrument and play. Music was for everyone. Continue reading

Find Some Reason to Believe

You’ve got to look through the daily headlines.

Bruce Springsteen

Bruce Springsteen sang, ‘At the end of every hard day, people find some reason to believe.’

I often think of the diverging stories of Peter and Judas in the gospels. Both betray Christ. Both weep at the realisation of what they have done. But one kills himself, and the other becomes the chief apostle.


Because the final sin of any person or society is despair. That’s the only unforgiveable sin – because it has no hope, despair counts out the future.

Whatever we go through, if we keep hope alive, we can hang tough in the midst of any problems and grow through them.

The same goes for our society. Continue reading

Our Country Is Burning – But The Fire Can Cleanse Us

A real leader would use the present crisis to save both the country and the ANC.

In the Dickens classic, ‘A Tale of Two Cities’, the protagonist ends the novel by sacrificing his life for the husband of his one true love, his rival in essence.

Before he dies, this protagonist, Sydney Carton, says the following:

“I see a beautiful city and a brilliant people rising from this abyss, and, in their struggles to be truly free, in their triumphs and defeats, through long years to come, I see the evil of this time and of the previous time of which this is the natural birth, gradually making expiation for itself and wearing out.

“I see the lives for which I lay down my life, peaceful, useful, prosperous and happy…

“It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.”

The genius of the novel is that Dickens lets nobody off the hook – both the regime of pre-revolutionary France and the revolutionary leaders have blood on their hands.

But redemption comes from somebody who sees through the cycle of violence and absorbs it.

For us in post-apartheid South Africa, this redemption need not be merely poetic. It can, and must, be practical too. Continue reading

Maths and Science Can’t Save Our Country

The so-called STEM subjects won’t save education, nor our economy.

maths and science

The latest student riots have put education in the spotlight. The students are re-deploying an old argument of the intellectual and political establishment – education can save our society (particularly the sciences) therefore it should be free for all.

The irony is that the violence of the riots and the lack of any meaningful dialogue around the conflict only shows the need for a new kind of education that goes beyond just preparing people for the workplace.

We need an education that helps us see and understand the big issues that have always either inspired or plagued human beings.

Simply getting a basic degree is not going to be enough anymore, if we are going to resolve all our national crises. Continue reading

We Didn’t Start The Fire – It Was Always Burning

As cities and universities burn in South Africa and the US, our ‘hashtag’ movements give us a glimpse of both the past and the future.


It is an intriguing coincidence that when one watches the news these days, the images coming from the US are almost exactly the same as those coming from South Africa.

What’s more, both have a hashtag at the heart of the burning, looting, and rioting – namely #BlackLivesMatter for the US, and #FeesMustFall for South Africa.

Is it a coincidence?

I don’t think so.

I think the movements stem from the same social force, brought to life by similar social conditions.

But before we try to understand that force, it’s worth simply recounting the brief history of both movements. Continue reading

Progressive Education Has Failed

In the ’90s, South Africa got caught up in the ideological warfare of western education.

Progressive education has failed

We put in place a progressive philosophy of education – or, Outcomes Based Education (OBE) – and meaningful curriculum was subsumed in a storm of paperwork, group-work, child-based learning, all of which left the average working class kid completely bewildered.

As usual, the richer middle class did alright because they grew up in homes with books et cetera.

So why did this happen? The government basically wanted to make a political statement – a bold repudiation of apartheid era, teacher-centred, chalk and talk, authoritarian-style education (an understandable position).

But they went too far. They ended up throwing out the basics of teaching a solid curriculum. They realise this now – if one is to read between the lines of the new Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statement (CAPS). But CAPS does not go far enough.

It’s time to turn the page on our two most recent and failed eras of education. Continue reading

Shut Down the Education Department!

Should government be trusted with shaping the citizenry?


Over the next week or so I am focusing on education. As a teacher and political writer, I have some ideas on how to fix our country’s shameful blight, and I am going to share three pieces on this issue over the next few days.

A few years ago, in the wake of hearing some shocking exam results from government schools in the Western Cape, I wrote a piece for the Cape Argus arguing that the Department of Education should be shut down, and the education budget handed over to school governing bodies as subsidies and to parents in the form of fee vouchers.

I still stand by that idea. Continue reading