I have always maintained that the only way for our country to achieve true prosperity, and for individuals and groups to achieve their goals, is through the education of all our people. This means that where there is a budgetary conflict, education takes priority over almost anything else.
I would like to start off by saying that I know almost nothing about systems of education or individual subjects — that is something that our experts in the field need to get right — what I do know is that educated people are capable of making informed decisions, are less prone to mindless prejudice and bigotry and are able to put things into perspective thereby allowing progress, which would otherwise be blocked, to be made.
In order to demonstrate the impact that an educated population would have on our society I would like to go through some examples of how it would change things :
1. Currently we have service-delivery protests which are, in the main, by the same masses who voted for the African National Congress. The failure to deliver being as a result of factors too numerous to mention here but done safe in the knowledge that populist rhetoric will still sway the electorate next time around. On the one side we have the rich and middle class who say that the people get the government they deserve. That is like saying the blind 100 metres runner lost to Usain Bolt because he was unfit. An educated population would dismiss rhetoric and ask the government to explain why they should vote for the same again. In Zimbabwe they did and as a result we have seen one rigged election after the next. South Africans and the ANC are better than that and will evolve accordingly.
2. An educated population would ask how Cosatu — the most powerful association of unions — with aims that are diametrically opposed to that of the ANC/government, can ever be in bed together with it. Labour leaders would point out that in order to improve the lot of the worker they have to tackle government and big business head on. The government on the other hand has to ensure the prosperity of all and clamp down on labour where it undermines that goal. Accordingly the ANC/Cosatu/SACP non-starter would finally dissolve and other more appropriate alliances would be formed. This empowers the government who are not beholden to labour and labour because they can go about fulfilling their mandate without worrying about being excluded from government.
3. Currently far right and general ambitions by the Afrikaner community are finding expression in groups like the Boeremag, emigration and Oranje. The vast majority of Afrikaners are proud to be South African but want to preserve their culture and heritage. The ideal solution to this, in my humble opinion, is found in federalism whereby groups are able to secure their own values while belonging to the whole at the same time. In the best example, the United States of America, the diverse systems and opportunities found through this system produced the world’s hyper power. Each state has its own government but when it comes to issues that affect the country as a whole the federal government holds sway. If the Afrikaners were to try and call for more autonomy within such a federal system presently they would be met with cries of apartheid by the masses. An educated population — made up of many different groups — is able to identify with the system in the US, realise that we too have many different races, cultures and religions all of which could be accommodated by a system such as federalism. You wouldn’t dare explain that to an uneducated mass who can easily be led to believe that anything or anyone is responsible for their suffering. This would not allow discrimination but, as seen in the Western Cape, like-minded people would tend to group together. Instead of trying to manipulate that by sending “coloureds” into the rest of the country or usurping the powers of the provinces rather recognise what the reality is and promote it.
4. An educated population would welcome an information bill to protect state security but would never allow the government to use it to clamp down on the media UNLESS actual issues of state security are involved.
5. An educated population would identify with their fellow South Africans because they understand how their cultural differences have mixed together to make this country another great melting pot of which we can all be proud. Then through sport and other activities the general fabric, which has been woven through education, can be firmly tied together.
6. On an individual level each person becomes an asset who can contribute MUCH MORE to our progress and has something to fall back on even if the system fails. Currently the masses do not have that luxury because the vast majority can’t offer their labour — in a material rather than menial way — elsewhere.
7. Lastly, for this exercise, the government would have achieved something wonderful which would, on every level, enhance the possibility of achieving the goals they have set for themselves and where they fall short leave them facing an educated population who understand the problems, are looking for answers not burning down the house and do not attack the foreigners who come to our country looking for a better life.
In my mind, every day, there are numerous permutations on how an educated population could solve so many of the problems we face while an uneducated mass presents the biggest challenge to the government and us all.
That is why I say that — life-threatening issues aside — it must be EDUCATION EDUCATION EDUCATION if we are to realise our dreams.