23 January 2013

Namibia: Afrika: The Other Side of the Coin - Compulsory Education for All Against Exclusion of Exclusivities

Dissatisfaction with and disapproval of the nation's educational system seems a trendy focus to point out government's 'incompetence' in educating the youth - every country's future.

However, such continuous criticism particularly from corporate media platforms is one-sided and therefore, tendentious.

For those who ladle out the sharpest criticism are usually the beneficiaries of the historically exclusive, former colonial-settler communities, who can afford the added amenities and luxuries of upmarket private schools, internationally recruited teachers, expensive universities, even studies at universities overseas, private security companies, gated communities, expensive medical aids, life insurances and private clinics.

That luxury is added to what national governments provide for in the form of national education, public health care, police protection, the rule of law and the judiciary and maintenance of infrastructure. Of course, national and general taxes pay for the administration and its upkeep. The private sector and therefore, the owners of the economy and their workers also benefit from every one of the elected governments and their structures.

Clearly, parents of the poor classes and their children remain unprivileged. They have to deal with structured poverty and starvation on a daily basis, at the same time raise their children. The historically privileged class and their new buffer against the poor majority, the new middle class, or gatekeepers for the mainly foreign owned economy and industry also benefit from Africa's generous democracy.

Many of their idle housewives work out in expensive gyms, compete with the latest bling-bling mobile phones, driving expensive SUVs badly, watching the "Kardashians' on DSTV, wondering whether the latest designer labelled dress should be bought from Cape Town, Johannesburg, or London.

In the above context, criticism without progressive proposals in close consultation with the educational authorities in place, which would open up all exclusivities and make them available to all under- and unprivileged, is a racial exercise in bad faith. Yes, it is racism under the pretence of "we know what is best for them".

No former colony can afford such exclusivities and not care for its democratic voter base. No working democracy can succumb to the demands for exclusivities of an elite classism that historically grew from a colonial-apartheid-UDI past. It would undermine and unsettle democracy in Africa. In fact, democracy would be manipulated into just another form of neo-colonialism.

In addition, it would polarise society. We would all return to neo-classism and elitism to the exclusion of the broad majority. Society would be reversed back into viciously inhumane racism. It would be back to the future where the indigenous majority would be exposed to real starvation and death.

Good, compulsory education for all has been done before. Zimbabwe and its President Robert Mugabe had set the high global standards until 2002, as recorded in the 'Guinness Book of World Records'. To this day, Zimbabweans stand out for their high level of education, resilience and hard working ethics, despite a brutal international Western onslaught on the economy and subsequently on the people of Zimbabwe. Today, Zimbabweans are proof that they are proud Africans. This is President Robert Gabriel Mugabe's legacy.

Democratically elected ruling parties and their governments in former colonies would afford the exclusion of their kith and kin at their own peril. Their offspring would therefore, have to attend school and be educated. This would have to be compulsory. There is simply no choice.

The laws of the land would have to provide for all children to be properly educated and well prepared for the economy out there. Life skills would have to become a compulsory integral part of national education. In fact, the educational authorities would have to prioritise to provide two daily meals for all children from the unprivileged majority - breakfast and lunch. It should be included in the annual budgets for national education. Starving children have no energy to focus on their education.

Compulsory life skills would be achieved in close consultation and cooperation with the various chambers of commerce and industries and mines, which would share their experience, knowledge and know-how with the department of national education and all their schools.

In addition, government, commerce and industry and the mining sector would have to assess the job market annually to build new areas of on-the-job training as well as beneficiation. School leavers would be able to be accommodated in the future economy and society that would respect human dignity and make sense.

The responsibility of democratically elected power lies in the management thereof. If such power structures would then follow-up with a well planned land allocation and agricultural development, involving traditional leaders, agricultural lecturers and students, the land bank and the ministry for agriculture and land in order to assist with the creation of new professional, indigenous African farmers, such governments would be able also to fight hunger. Those governments would create a reliably strong agricultural sector in the national economy.

All in all, it is an intricate process that is well worth working for. But, the law of the land will have to endorse it, or all good intentions will fail.

Any responsible, democratically elected ruling party with a struggle background and a moral high ground would be able to combat unemployment and abject poverty in a hostile economy. Africa's history would record such principled governments as exemplary. Africa's best, Kwame Nkrumah, Julius Nyerere, Samora Machel, Chris Hani, Sam Nujoma, Robert Mugabe, Patrice Lumumba, Dr Augustinho Neto and many more would be done proud by such humane African democratic care.

 Udo W. Froese is a non-institutionalised, independent political and socio-economic analyst and columnist based in Johannesburg, South Africa.

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