Friday, March 27, 2009

Ours is a greater cause

Sector Education and Training Authorities (SETAs) have been at the centre of almost every political debate since inception, especially when the issue of employment and provision of skills is on the table. Being part of a contingent that has taken the mantle to deliver on the promises of the National Skills Development Strategy, I have been overwhelmed at the contribution we have made unaware to the lives of thousands of South Africans. Politics aside, if you ask me now if the SETA system is working, without reservation I will boldly tell you that the system is well on track and YES it is working.

I will not attempt to write about the shortcomings of the systems neither do I attend to appear like the paid piper who plays the tune of the master. One thing that I am prepared to do is to profess like the biblical figure who once cried out: “One thing I know though is that the blind can see and the lame can walk”.

Through the National Skills Development Act we are steadily perfecting a system that has taken other countries years and years to perfect. Ireland for example is said to have taken 40 years to fully reap the rewards of education and training authorities. It has taken South Africa just 10 years to produce learnership graduations. Debating about the absorption of these learners by the market will be reserved for future articles but for interest sake I will say that official statistics show that the learnership of one particular SETA has resulted in more than 80% placement over the years.

As I am writing this I am attending a graduation ceremony, my second in a series that cuts across all provinces. In this graduation, taking place in Johannesburg, more than four hundred young people were conferred with a nationally recognized certificate. This is not just another graduation as you might think. This is a graduation of people some of whom thought it was the end of a dream when they completed normal schooling and realized that they cannot embark on further education due to lack of funds. Thanks to the Skills Development Strategy and thanks to the SETA system these young people can now see brighter future for themselves.

During the first graduation that I attended in Polokwane, a province to the north of the country, I couldn’t help myself but shed a tear. There were less graduants there, about thirty to be exact but what was more touching was the fact that the number of guests doubled the number of graduants. By guests I mean parents and well wishers excluding honoured guests and the academia. Every time a learner ascended the stage to be conferred, ululations would fill the room and parents would recite their children’s clan names. It was a very touching ceremony. After all the festivities I saw a mother who tightly embraced her son and danced with him as tears cascaded her face.

In this graduation here in Johannesburg, I have witnessed all forms of African traditional dances as fathers danced and stomped their feet as their children left the stage with their capes on. All these are parent, some of who could never have afforded to send their children to institutions of higher learning.

Now I will say with conviction that the Sector Education and Training Authorities (SETAs) are producing results. No matter what politicians; doomsayers and their ilk say, the Skills Development Strategy is producing the intended results. Just because the Sills Development Act is not benefiting one section of the population, like the previously manipulated Manpower Training Act, it cannot be therefore be seen as being ineffective.

The problem is not with the Act or the Strategy or SETAs. The problem is with people who see the system as a cash cow to enable them to realize their self fulfilling dream of financial enrichment. I believe that skills development is a cause greater than petty politics; greater than selling newspapers with corruption stories and it is also greater than any individual’s personal ambitions of being rich.

Our cause, as people who are mandated to implement the Skills Strategy, is a greater cause. We cannot stop trying. We cannot stop running. We simply cannot fail as there are decades and decades of inaccuracies that we have to make right. We also cannot expect to achieve our goals overnight.

If anyone still doubts the impact of the National Skills Development Strategy; the Skills Development Act and the Sector Education and Training Authorities just ask them to talk to a learner who has been through the system. Let that person talk to a parent whose child has been through the system.

Let no one betray this cause. FORWARD TO A SKILLED SOUTH AFRICA!.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Black on Black violence

The black on black violence that gripped our country in the late 80’s and early 90’s has resurfaced, much to the detriment of our progress as a people. The first uprising of this self made annihilation saw the apartheid government sitting back and folding arms and actually terming this catastrophe ‘black on black violence’. YES the term came from government circles.

A decade into democracy black people are speaking the language of economic empowerment. We are no longer “hewers of wood and drawers of water”, we have stood up from the fall and dusted ourselves, so it would seem. Alas, ghosts of the past continue to haunt us in the way in which we continue to look down and disrespect each other because of the colour of our skin. This is metamorphosed black on black violence. It has now emerged in business circles, in our churches and in the way we perceive our (black) government. Our black sisters are master tacticians, great generals and commanders of this violence. What am I ranting about, you ask? Self hate.

It is quite disturbing to see black chief executives and managers not receiving the same respect or recognition from their black colleagues and subordinates, you should see the very same colleagues under a manager of different race. Some executives resign their positions citing that there remnants of the ‘old order’ in corporations not knowing that their black counterpaths have helped conspire against them. Black female managers can tell you that not only have they got to contend with chauvinist male colleagues but also spiteful sisters who will look down upon them based on where they stay, what they wear and so forth. And boy, if your command of the queen’s language does not match that of the educated natives, then you are in danger of being labeled by whatever term you mispronounced.

Please don’t tell me that black managers are not authoritative enough or that they are dictatorial hence their colleagues and subordinates not affording them the respect they deserve, I refuse to believe that. For me it boils down to one reason, we hate ourselves so much that we do not believe that anyone of our skin colour can actually be something good in life.

If a black person achieves something we try to find reasons of his achievements having come in an unbecoming way. If it’s a sister we go as far as saying she has slept her way into the position.

This is even in our churches, how many times do we hear of ministers being kicked out of churches by church councils and congregants. People even resort to toyi-toying in churches and hurl abuse at each other. Surely you can’t tell me that situations are so bad in that we can’t come up with amicable solutions to whatever the problem is. We are so caught up in wanting to see the failure of another black person. Our government has also bore the brunt of this violence. Some people go as far as saying “beyingcono i-government yabelungu” (we were better off under the white government). If it were so then why weren’t we given the vote and all privileges that came with it? Are we patiently anticipating the failure of the black government that we are blurred from some of its achievements? It seems the Sotho saying setlhare sa motho o motsho ke lekgoa (for things to go right in the eyes of a black man put a white person in charge) is correct.

What is so amazing is that we are very quick to form war camps and run to the media when there are problems in our fold. We don’t even make attempts of giving each other advice or try to solve our affairs. We are like soccer fans waiting for a goal in that when it is scored we don’t look at how it came but we just jump for joy at the expense of another.

Is this just a remnant of the apartheid system of being constantly undermined and made to feel inferior? Maybe, but we should be careful. Black on black violence threatened our livelihood and our progress in the nineties and it is doing the same in the BEE era. And what is the other race doing? Sitting back and folding arms. And by the time our bickering eventually ends, we will wake up and realise that we have lost all that our forebears fought hard to attain.

Celebrate the achievements of another black person and see how liberating and motivating it is. Black man you’re on your own.