Rise up for freedom

June 16 1976 started the process that eventually set us free; if today's students spent less time on bling culture they could realise the unfulfilled parts of their predecessors' dream.

June 16 1976 started the process that eventually set us free; if today's students spent less time on bling culture they could realise the unfulfilled parts of their predecessors' dream.

"Natives will be taught from childhood to realise that equality with Europeans is not for them," said Hendrik Verwoerd, one of the architects of apartheid and then minister of Bantu education.

" There is no place for him in European society above the level of certain forms of labour. What is the use of teaching a Bantu child mathematics when it cannot use it in practice?"

The racist policy of Bantu education was the immediate trigger for the Soweto revolution 33 years ago.

Those schoolkids, suffused by the ideology of black consciousness, always knew they had a greater purpose. Their heroics led directly to democratic South Africa almost 18 years later.

Though democratic South Africa spends a greater proportion of its national wealth on education than just about any other country in the world, far too many black children today still don't get a decent education.

Sure the kids are themselves partly to blame. But by far the greatest blame can be laid at the door of their teachers, who are given cover by their misnamed main union, the South African Democratic Teachers Union.

For as long as ill-prepared teachers in the townships spend much of their time out of their classes, whether toyi-toying on the picket lines or at home, our students will remain unprepared for the competitive world out there.

Yes, most of our teachers were themselves victims of Bantu education. But what stops dedicated professionals from improving themselves, especially with the ready help of the state?

Today's children have a great legacy to live up to that many forget or ignore. Maybe it's time they took a leaf out of their predecessors' book, mustered a little revolutionary fervour, and ushered recalcitrant teachers back into class.

We have many fine, dedicated teachers who do their level best to prepare their charges for this brave new world. And most teachers are overworked, underpaid and toil away in grim conditions.

The teachers and their pupils must rise above their circumstances if South Africa has any hope of improving the livelihoods of this and all future generations.

This is a massive task, but history will judge us harshly if we do not pull it off.

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