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Open letter to South Africa’s students‚ universities and government‚ represented by Minister in the .


By unknown | Nov 10, 2008 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

In township patois www has nothing to do with the Web. It is derogatory shorthand for those who came into this world fleetingly and were gone, without any remarkable accomplishments. Wazalwa, wadla, wafa, the insult goes - he was born, he ate, he died.

His vast body of work has ensured this is one thing that can never be said of Leepile Taunyane.

A lot has gone into his 80 years. Born in Alexandra in the summer of 1928, he wrote his name in chalk in the annals of history as principal of the local high school for 15 years before going on to help found and lead two teachers' organisations, Tuata and Naptosa, forerunners of Sadtu.

Just 10 years ago, before it was de rigueur for those at the helm of teacher unions to go on expensive but pointless overseas junkets, Taunyane had led a Naptosa delegation to the 7th World Congress of Teachers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

He must have done such good work at Alexandra High that in 1975 he was parachuted to Katlehong High, east of his home town, where he'd stay for 17 fruitful years of churning out doctors, nurses, lawyers, teachers and other worthy members of society.

So when, today, seated in a sparse Parktown office where his frail frame jostles for space with files, books and more files, and he says OBE - the outcomes-based education system - is a bitter pill to swallow, you have no choice but to listen.

He's sat on countless commissions of enquiry that investigated anything from university entrance for black students in the so-called white institutions to history curriculums for South African schools.

For four years he gave his time to serving the council of the then Vista University.

The posh office block where Taunyane does his bit of nine-to-five is the home of the Premier Soccer League, where the veteran administrator is head of the charity cash cow - the Telkom Cup.

He is honorary life president of the very body that pays his salary!

His involvement in the game of football started in Alex in the early 1950s, when he led the local FA. Ironically, it was Taunyane who allowed the much younger Irvin Khoza room to hone his skills in football administration when he allocated him tasks.

Today Khoza is the most powerful man in local football - and Africa and the world have taken note.

"I taught him," says the affable Meneer, "all three of them - him, his younger brother and sister."

While Khoza was still working his way up the ladder, Taunyane was among the top brass in the country's football, notching up leadership successes in such bodies as the now defunct Sanfa, NSL and PSL.

This is the same man who guided the fortunes of the game, trying to save it from its own rogues like George Thabe, convicted felons Abdul Bhamjee and Cyril Kobus and the colourful Stix Morewa, who famously opined that "money is always in need" when he was caught with his hand in the cookie jar.

Football was not the only game to benefit from his expertise. He led the Black Tennis Foundation at the same time he was chairman of the Arthur Ashe Tennis Project from 1981 to 1990.

His manner is unhurried; his language pedantic. This is no doubt the style of a man whose training has taught him it would be a grave injustice to dismiss a class when his message had not reached home.

He's reading a poem by John Keats, The Human Seasons and, unsure of the taste of his audience, stops short of reading it out loud.

"I taught languages," says the new octogenarian. Behind the glasses his eyes are slits as, true to the nature of their beauty, Keats' stanzas hold sway over the disciple.

He's penned some poems of his own, some of which were collated into a Setswana book Tswina, honeycomb. He also translated The Street Detectives, a book by Janis Ford, into the vernacular.

As we speak, a copy of The Methodist Church in Africa lands on the desk: "You can keep that one."

He is the author of the paperback.

Today sees the launch of a new book titled Alexandra, A History by two Wits University academics - Philip Bonner and Noor Nieftagodien.

There is no prize for guessing who was asked to write the most conspicuous strapline to sell the book!

The holder of a BA degree in Systematic Theology and Biblical Studies from the Fort Hare of yore, he still finds time for worship, just like grand-dad!

The conversation shifts to the death of Professor Es'kia Mphahlele, the man of letters who died at 88.

Taunyane says his love for English literature stems from having met Mphahlele as a student at the famed Orlando High many moons ago.

His own work in the field of education earned Taunyane an honorary doctorate of literature-philosophy from his alma mater, Unisa, where he attained a second BA in education and sociology.

In his acceptance speech he lamented the crisis in our educational system and the general drop in the quality of matriculants and the "professional calibre of our teaching staff".

In the sunset of his life - a life well lived - Taunyane loves nothing more than pottering in the garden and playing with his grandchildren.

Reading is clearly as intrinsic a part of his being as breathing.

The epitaph - and God forbid it from encroaching any time soon - will be long and glowing.

No www with this man!


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