Spectre of lost generation returns to haunt the future

Why can't we learn from history? Why, only thirteen years into our freedom, have children in Khutsong been on a pointless school strike?

Why can't we learn from history? Why, only thirteen years into our freedom, have children in Khutsong been on a pointless school strike?

How can we possibly believe that they will catch up and perform as well as other kids?

Where are the parents while these children are being used in such a manner? Where is the government? Where is the outrage of the community and the nation?

In the 1980s many of us came across the slogan: Liberation First, Education Later. With this on many people's lips, school children concentrated on boycotts aimed at rendering the apartheid system unworkable and the country ungovernable. In 1986 and 1987 many children did not get any schooling at all.

I remember that in 1986, as a young pupil, we went without schooling for about four months.

Was this action justified? The struggle against apartheid was complex. In many ways, looking at the freedom we have today one could say yes, it was justified. Yet, looking at many people who never got back to school and became what was known as "the lost generation", one must wonder if such a tactic was justified.

What we all acknowledge today is that we should not and must not go back there. The price we paid, justified or not, for those years is too high and too terrible.

With the freedom we have now, our most important task is to rebuild a country torn apart by apartheid.

One of our greatest failures over the past thirteen years is that our education system is not up to scratch. President Mbeki said in his State of the Nation speech in February that our matric mathematics pass rate has hardly improved in ten years!

Worse still, our government ministers, including the minister of education, do not have faith in the state school system. They send their children to private schools. That, my friends, is how bad the state school system is. Even the people in charge of it cannot stand it!

Today the children of Khutsong go back to school after five weeks at home. Their boycott was meant to force the government to return their area to the Gauteng administration instead of that of the North West.

They have failed to achieve their goal. Those who pushed them into this position have not achieved their goal. The only sure result is that at the end of the year we will see some seriously bad results. Who wins? No one. Who loses? The children.

These children are victims of the worst possible manipulation. They have been corralled into a political fight that is meaningless to their education in the long run.

Their action will haunt many of them for the rest of their lives as they get turned away at the factory door because they have no education.

To be honest, someone should go to jail for manipulating children in such a cynical fashion.