I was a student in Johannesburg on June 16th 1976,,when all hell broke loose in Soweto. I watched in horror when those iconic pictures hit the news of Hector Pieterson being carried in the arms of Mbuyisa Makhubo, after he had been shot by the police. I knew then thatlife as we had known it in South Africa was going to change forever.
There was almost a whole generation of students who knowingly gave up their opportunity for education in order for those who followed to benefit from their sacrifices. As students we tried to help them with extra lessons and were thrilled when our efforts enabled some of those disadvantaged youngsters to pass their matric.
I became a teacher and was thrilled when, almost ten years later, I was finally able to teach in a democratically free South Africa. I knew that it would take time for the injustices of the past to be redressed, but I believed that if we all played our part this time would happen sooner rather than later.
It is fifteen years since Democracy yet the Eastern Cape where I now find myself, is still embattled by a hangover from those days of injustice. Other provinces appear to have left the past behind them and are getting on with the business of education, but only this past month the National Government had to step in as they put our Provincial Education Department under administration.
On morning television yesterday I heard the premier of our Province duck and dive when she was quizzed about the reason for this. It is, of course, all the fault of an inherited legacy! There was no transparency in the past – and now they are totally transparent (yeah, right!).
When she was asked about financial mismanagement, it was also called the fault of the past regime. In her own words, it took at least five years before past matters were resolved (Ok, that was ten years ago – what has happened since then?)
Money that is allocated to a budget but not spent is returned to the provincial coffers. This has happened in the Eastern Cape a number of times. In the meantime, school feeding schemes have been abandoned, ostensibly owing to lack of funds. So too, the school transport system that sees to getting thousands of rural children to school every day.
When are they going to stop passing the buck? When are they going to accept the fact that it has stopped – right at their feet? They can no longer blame the injustices of the past – horrific as they were– for the mismanagement that is happening right now, and for which they are culpable.
Next week we commemorate June 16th again. If the politicians, who came into power on the ticket of addressing the inequalities of the past, cannot do their jobs then it is time to hand over the reins to those who can – but without justifying their incompetence by once again passing the buck to the ‘legacy of the past’. That has just become so old!
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