They are not interestedin education

I WILL not claim to have been a Lucky Dube fan. Still, I was saddened by his premature death at the hands of gun-toting thugs.

I WILL not claim to have been a Lucky Dube fan. Still, I was saddened by his premature death at the hands of gun-toting thugs.

I was reminded of Dube - particularly one of his songs whose lyrics say something like "They don't build no schools anymore, all they build is prisons, prisons" - as I read another shameful scandal in Mpumalanga.

In case you missed it, the province's education department decided against taking an offer from Vodacom to build schools that had been demolished in order to make way for Mbombela Stadium.

The children in the affected area a few weeks ago went on the rampage demanding that the schools they were promised be built immediately.

Police responded as they do in service delivery protests, with the jackboot and ammunition.

In the meantime, the government has tried to pin the blame for not taking up the Vodacom deal on an official, Ray Tywakadi, who has since left its employ. The facts show Tywakadi actually accepted the offer from Vodacom on the department's behalf.

Someone else the department chooses not to name, vetoed the offer.

So as I write, the Mpumalanga government is yet to say who decided against the building of schools and why.

I could add that they had not said what steps they intend taking against the individual, but I have learnt that demanding accountability from our government institutions is to invite a frustrating wait.

There are several problems with the scenario that I have painted. The first and most scary is that we can have a government that would sanction the demolishing of a school without providing an alternative.

It is scary because we know from Nazi Germany that those who would one day burn people, first burnt books.

In South Africa, the spectre of what those who would destroy schools in order to build stadiums will do in the future is too ghastly to contemplate.

Another unfortunate implication flowing from this stadium-ahead-of-schools mentality is the criminalisation of those children who demanded a basic right to education.

I wish those who have made their vocation to remind us what the Freedom Charter says about the ownership of mines would also tell their comrades running Mpumalanga that the same document says "education shall be free, compulsory, universal and equal for all children; higher education and technical training shall be opened to all by means of state allowances and scholarships awarded on the basis of merit".

But considering how little education features in the debate about what the charter says, you would be forgiven for thinking that it restricted itself to theownership of mines.

There is nothing wrong with being tough and decisive against crime, including the looting and damage of property. But it is an even bigger crime to cause people to have to go there by denying them something as basic as education.

We have no business creating new Hector Pietersons, 15 years into majority rule and 33 years since the children of Soweto made the point on behalf of all others for generations to come.

We sometimes conveniently forget that the World Cup will take just one month.

After that, life will have to continue. Schools we will always need.

We could speculate as to why the Mpumalanga government refused what appears to have been a generous and sensible offer.

What is not up for debate is that the decision that was eventually made was anti-poor and anti-black because it is the poor black children who now have to duck police bullets.

But then, like Dube said, they are not interested in building schools anymore ...