Give us a chance to rise above the rest

President Mbeki can afford jet, but not school books

Stephen Mulholland
The Sunday Times
14 Oct 2001 E-Mail this page to a friend

This was one of the first articles I added to the site back in 2001. Mulholland of course later got fired at the Sunday Times for speaking his mind. I've now added the functionality to rate this article as well as to comment on it. Please feel free to do so. No registration is required.

IT IS comforting to know that I am not alone in incurring the wrath of our feisty education minister, Kader Asmal, the sort of chap, as The Star says "... known to positively bristle when his beliefs (and regulations) are challenged". Asmal would have been far better off in an authoritarian, socialist society, where the edicts of politicians are accepted as gospel and ministers can do no wrong.

Asmal makes it clear that the state can't afford kids in schools before they are 6 ...

Now not for a moment does one question his dedication and his good intentions. After all, he knows what is best for us, be it touchy-feely outcomes-based education, which produces semi-literate innumerates with high self-esteem, or an iron rule setting out the age at which children may enter school.

The latter issue led to a recent outburst against that august body, the Constitutional Court, after this daredevil group upheld a Johannesburg High Court judgment in favour of one Doreen Harris. Harris had successfully applied to set aside a ruling by Asmal and the government dictating that her daughter, Talya, could not enter the King David Primary School because she was 11 days too young in terms of national education department regulations.

Bristly as ever, Asmal commented that "the judgment (of the Constitutional Court delivered by Judge Albie Sachs) serves to strengthen the existing large social distinction between independent and public schools, by adding to the privilege the wealthy already enjoy". Just what Asmal means by "wealthy" is not defined. There are many thousands of struggling parents of all races who make great sacrifices to send their children to schools which they believe will provide a superior education. Is this a sin? One suspects that Kader's parents, like mine, made such sacrifices to ensure he received a good education.

It is deplorable, and unjust, that some kids, because their parents are poor or don't care or are alcoholics or drug addicts or criminals or whatever, don't get the sort of education reasonable people would wish them to have.

...the same state which can spend half-a-billion rand on a private jet for Mbeki...

To punish other kids for this doesn't make sense.

By his comments Asmal makes it clear that it is the state which can't afford to have kids enter public schools before they are in their seventh year.

This is the same state, mind you, which can spend R60- or R70-billion of our tax rands on arms and provide our globe-trotting president with a half-a-billion rand private jet which costs about R40-million a year to run.

In other words, First World arms and First World presidential perks but Third World entry level for our children.

Next we will be told that frightened citizens, exposed to escalating crime and an impotent police force, cannot employ private security guards. By implication, private security - in Asmalian terms - "serves to strengthen the existing large social distinction . . . by adding to the privilege the wealthy already enjoy". Let the buggers be robbed, raped and murdered.

Of course, these "wealthy" do not include our cabinet ministers and provincial premiers such as Mbhazima Shilowa. He enjoys the protection of 22 security guards. Those guards who protect our elite are, of course, not private but paid for by the taxpayer.

If Asmal believes it is a "privilege" for children to be able to enter school earlier than their seventh year then presumably it is in the interests of the children to do so and, eventually, in the interests of society as a whole. Why sacrifice the interests of society on the altar of the false god of equality? Equality of opportunity, but not of outcome, is a noble objective. Sweet as it would be, we can't all play golf like Tiger Woods, rugby like Breyten Paulse, or sing like Pavorotti. Not even Asmal can legislate for that.

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Okay first- I love that last one. The depth of field is amazing! I adore HDR & I use Photomatix when I rebmemer. I really need to do it more often. Only that program requires jpg images- which may be why I don’t use it as often. I have been really wanting to use it on some specific landscapes around here. I just need to find the time to get out there & do it.
This article avchieed exactly what I wanted it to achieve.

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Iíve now added the comment and voting functionality to this old page as well. So, please feel free to join the debate - the issue is as relevant today as it had been a decade ago. Probably now even more so!

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