Saturday, May 10, 2014

Elections: the rural vote

This is an extract from the article written for Al Jazeera Opinion:

When voters went to the polls May 7 to cast a vote for a national and provincial government, there was already a sense of resignation because in spite of the campaign from opposition parties such as the Democratic Alliance (DA) and the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) , we all knew the African National Congress (ANC) would win the national election with an overwhelming support provincially. The ANC has been the default government since 1994 when Nelson Mandela became the first democratically elected president after apartheid.

This default position is largely due to what we know happens to liberation movements: They are supported by the majority of the population, often for complex reasons long after the liberation moment has ended. One would think that given the ANC's record of corruption, lack of service delivery in poor areas, the Marikana massacre, disgruntled worker unions, the widening gap between the rich and the poor, voters would be happy to let go of the ANC after 20 years. But this is not the case. Predictions from the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) indicated that the ANC would still be in power after these elections, although it wouldn't have the two-thirds majority it once enjoyed.

As the ANC celebrates victory, some analysts have pointed out that there has been a meaningful drop in support for the ANC in these elections, especially in urban areas. Indeed, rural areas have been considered ANC's stronghold for some time.  But is confidence in ANC dropping only among the urban dwellers?

The rest of the article can be found here: http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2014/05/south-africa-elections-rural-vot-20145108365499913.html

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Ubizo (The calling)

“Utitshala ohamba emthunzini wetempile phakathi kwabalandeli bakhe, akaniki okobulumko bakhe, koko okokholo lwakhe nokothando lwakhe.” La ngamazwi wombhali obekekileyo, uKhalil Gibran kwincwadi yakhe ethi Umprofethi. La mazwi abalulekile xa sicinga ngabantu abaye bazixhamla bazibandakanya kumsebenzi ojongene nemfundo yabantwana nolutsha beli: ingakumbi ootitshala bethu. Xa sithetha ngootitshala apha eMzantsi sinento yokubagalela ngamanzi ngakumbi xa sijonge iziphumo zebanga lokuqgibela okanye xa sixelelwa ngoqhankqalazo lootitshala ngenxa yokufuna ukurhola ngcono. Ezi ziganeko zithi ootitshala bethu abazimiselanga kwimfundo yabantwana bethu. Abanye bade bathi ixesha lokuba ootitshala bazidle ngomsebenzi wabo ladlula.

Kudala kwakuthiwa xa ubani ezinikezela kumsebenzi othile, ade abalasele, abonakalise ubuchule kumsebenzi othile kuthiwa ubiziwe. Ubizo olu yinto echaphazela abantu abathile: ingakumbi oogqirha (namagqirha), umfundisi wenkonzo njalo njalo. Oku kuthi asinguye uwonke wonke obiziweyo. Liqaqobana la bantu abazinikezelayo kumsebenzi wokukhonza ilizwe. Side sithi abantu ababiziweyo ngabantu abanesiphiwo lokuzinikezela kumsebenzi odelekileyo. Ndiye ndizibuze umbuzo: xa sisithi abantu abathile babiziwe, babizwe ngubani? Lo mbuzo uzama ukuphicotha lo mba wobizo kuba xa ubani esabela ubizo uyazincama yaye uzincamela inkolelo yokubaluleka komsebenzi abizelwe wona.

Ndiye ndafunda ngomzekelo omhle wotishala ozinikezeleyo, wasabela ubizo lokufundisa ulutsha. uMama Shape Msiza utitsha isiNgesi ePonelopele Oracle Secondary School, eEbony Park eMidrand. Ngonyaka ka2012 waye wavuzwa ngewonga eliphakamisa ootishala kudidi lwamawonga. Yena uMam’Msiza wafumana kwiTop Gauteng Teachers Awards kwingqinqi Ekurhuleni. Eliwonga walifumana ngenxa yeziphumo zabantwana bakhe ngexesha eyintloko yesebe lesiNgesi kwisikolo sakhe. Abafundi bakhe baphumelela emagqabini kwizifundo zesiNgesi. Kudliwano-ndlebe kunye neBBC uncokola ngesakhono sakhe nobuchule abusebenzisayo xa etitsha. Uthi uba ngumzali kubafundi bakhe ukuze bangamoyiki yaye akwazi ukuthetha nabo ngazo zonke izinto ezibalulekileyo, hayi ezesikolo kuphela. Uthando nenkathalo alubonakalisayo kubafundi bakhe lwenza angahoyi into ezinje ngemali ayirholayo yaye oku ukucacisa ngelithi : most cases teachers are not seen as a people who can be rich or who can be rich because the salary is not good. You never have money as a teacher! So we need to see it as a calling. You need to compromise.” Oku kuthi uxanduva azithathele wona uMam’Msiza libonakalisa ukuba indlovu ayisindwa ngomboko wayo.
Umsebenzi kaMam’Msiza awuphelelanga kwigumbi lokufundisa kuba ungumququzeleli kwezinye iinkonzo zesikolo kwakunye nokuncedisana nabafundi abalungiselela ukuphangela okanye abazimisele ukuqhubekeka nemfundo yabo emva komatriki. Nangona ewuthathela phezulu ubizo lwakhe, uMam’Msiza uyavuma ukuba ikhona imiceli-mngeni kulo msebenzi wakhe ingakumbi isimilo sabantwana besikolo. Nangona eligqala (uneminyaka eliyishumi amabini engutitshala), abafundi bakhe banamaxesha lokuphuma izithuba, intlonipho bayishiye ngaapha kwemida yesikolo. Abanye badibana nobunzima basebenzise iziyobisi yaye oku, kuchaphazela imfundo yabo. Iintombi zona ziye ziroxe esikolweni ngenxa yokukhulelwa. Abanye abafundi ziinkedama. Oku kuthi uMam’Msiza uthwele umthwalo wokufundisa abantwana abanemithwalo yabo.

Xa siqwalasela ibali likaMam’Msiza kumele sikhumbule ubume bezemfundo zalapha eMzantsi.Unintsi bootitshala banomsebenzi onzima wokufundisa unintsi lwabantwana nangona urhulumente engabaxhasi ngeencwadi zokufunda ezifanelekileyo (umzekelo eMpuma Koloni naseLimpopo).Oku kuthi umsebenzi wootitshala abaninzi unobunzima obungathethekiyo, kodwa obu bunzima buchaphazela abantu ababiziweyo, yaye basabela.


Ndibanovalo eleke ndicinga ngobizo; ibali likaMam’Msiza kwakunye nabo bonke ootitshala abazibandakanya kulomsebenzi ngenxa yobizo. Nje ngotitshala osandokungena kweliqela lababiziweyo, ndiye ndizithandabuze: ingaba ndingutitshala ofanelekileyo na xa ndizibona nje ngongabizwanga? Ingaba uthini umahluko phakathi kotitshala obiziweyo nongabizwanga? Ndinomrhano: le nto yobizo yeyabantu abathile. Ootitshala abafundisa kwimeko ezimaxongo nezibonakalisa ubunzima balomsebenzi; ngabo ababiziweyo. Kodwa, singathini ngootitshala abafundisa kwizikolo eziphucukileyo? Yintoni ebangela ukuba ootitshala abaninzi banganikezeli xa bedibana nobunzima ezikolweni zabo? Ingaba lubizo?

A similar article written in English can be found here:
http://www.thoughtleader.co.za/athambilemasola/2014/04/22/the-calling/

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

#TeacherTuesday Week 10: On teaching "creatures"

For the past two months I have been writing about the lives of teachers and their students from across the globe (for a project called #TeacherTuesday). All these stories have been highlighting the complexities in classrooms and policies that often underpin what happens in the classroom. Most of the reflections I’ve written for #TeacherTuesday have largely questioned the notion of access to education: inclusion and exclusion. The question of equal education and equal opportunities within education has been the golden thread over the past few weeks. And more importantly, thinking through ways in which education can be a tool for changing lives, especially for those who are often poor or marginalised.

When I read about Sitira from Indonesia I realised that my view about inclusion and exclusion in schools still needs to be challenged. Sitira is a Special Need Education Coordinator at Tunas Harapan Elementary School in Bandung City. There are 672 children in her school and 44 of them have a  disability. She reflects that there are many challenges she faces in her school. Dealing with the negative perceptions about people with disabilities means that their education is often not taken seriously and inadequately funded. Many do not get the skills to work or study further once they have completed secondary school.
The word disability is often seen as synonymous with abnormal. In Xhosa people with disabilities or perceived as “special needs” are referred to as “Isidalwa” (literal translation, a creature). This word bothers me because there is a lack of recognition of the humanity of people who do not meet the standards of what it means to be normal. In Grahamstown there’s a school that caters to children who have special needs (physical and mental barriers to learning); the school is called Kuyasa Special Schhol. While I lived in Grahamstown and observed and worked in mainstream, township schools I often heard teachers referring to deviant or unacceptable behaviour amongst their “normal” students “wenza ikuyasa” (literally, you are doing a kuyasa, implying something wrong) thus associating Kuyasa with deviance. Such everyday utterances have implications about what it means to be a good or bad student or more importantly about what it constitutes to be human and non-human.

When we consider the reality of the education of children with disabilities, reliable data are notoriously difficult to obtain to get a real sense of the inequality in their access to education. One estimate is that 93 million children under age 14, or 5.1% of the world’s children, were living with a ‘moderate or severe disability’. Of these, 13 million, or 0.7% of the world’s children, experience severe disabilities[1]. Around four in five children with disabilities are in developing countries. At all ages, levels of both moderate and severe disability are higher in low- and middle-income countries than in rich countries. Sub-Saharan Africa has the highest[2]. The scale of disabilities is often under-reported and therefore difficult to gauge for possible interventions. To take one example, according to GMR 2010,  a 2004 census in Sierra Leone reported only 3,300 cases of mental impairment, while a detailed national survey the year before had estimated the real figure to be ten times higher. This is questionable and highlights the shame that seems to be associated with being isidalwa.

If one is in a developing country there are also myths one has to contend with that often perpetuate the silence and stigma around people with disabilities. When I was growing up, I was taught to believe that people with disabilities had made the ancestors angry and therefore their disability was a punishment from the ancestors. For those who were mentally impaired, someone had cast a spell on them to render them senseless and shame their family. The irony of these stories is that there were certain people who were exempt from the myths and shame associated with physical disability. By society’s measures my grandmother was isidalwa. As a child she contracted polio on both legs. One of her legs healed but the other didn’t and she spent most of her life using a walking stick. In spite of the stigma of being disabled, black and female, my grandmother was educated and she was able to become financially independent because she worked and became as a well-known seamstress in East London. With her measly salary she raised her own children as a single mother and later opened a small business sewing for people in her community. My grandmother’s story has always made me think differently about the stigma attached to disability. Because she was educated she had the chance to live a public life where she could earn a living rather than become invisible in her family because of the shame that comes with disability. The only limitations that were placed on her were those imposed by an apartheid government which narrowed the opportunities black women could make use of.

The silence and stigma attached to people with disabilities means that there isn’t a global recognition of the importance of making education meaningful for a group of people who are often marginalised for their difference. In South Africa a separate ministry for women, children and people with disabilities was created in order to address the rights of people who fall within society’s perception of “the vulnerable group”. I’m ambivalent about the ministry because on the one hand it aims to recognise that there’s a need to protect the rights of certain groups of people, on the other hand, it runs the risk of highlighting what is normal and what is abnormal where the issues of marginalised groups are a footnote in political discourse.

 This blog post is part of the #Teacher Tuesday blog project, which seeks to discuss the issues emerging in the Unesco Education for All Global Monitoring Report.

[1] Global Monitoring Report (GMR) 2013/14
[2] Global Monitoring Report 2010