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On Learning, Teaching and Service

12 April 1999

Going about in South Africa today, one cannot help developing a profound sense that something is terribly wrong in our society.

What aggravates the situation, and makes me even more worried and sad, is that this illness is already bearing so heavily on some significant numbers of the youth of our country, such that the future of the country can be in serious jeopardy.

Visiting one school in Port Shepstone during the voter registration period, I commented about the tall grass on the school yard, and mentioned that I would have expected students, in the true spirit of social responsibility, to have cut it.

In response, one student said that the people hirednt said that the people hired to do this had not yet arrived, otherwise it would have been cut. My own response was that such a comment was sadly irresponsible.

But, we should agree that this is a typical illustration of the deep-seated evil in our society today where significant numbers of its citizens do not feel equally responsible for its reconstruction and development, but are always at the forefront of demanding their rights.

The ANC`s Elections Manifesto raises quite strongly these very issues of a declined sense of social responsibility, and rise in selfishness where some want rights without responsibility, and where there is disregard for the interests of the broader community, which threatens our hard-won freedom.

As a result, the manifesto places high emphasis on this question of social discipline and responsibility, of the RDP of the Soul, where all South Africans "act together to solve the national problems that confront all of us…" It says that our country needs the mobilised collective energies, wisdom and experiences of millions of our people acting in partnership, as both the architects and constructors, for change.

But then some among us have developed a tendency that someone else must do the dirty job while they place more demands, complaints and criticism, and expect just to receive !

Thus, seemingly, is the response of our nation to the challenge of the culture of learning, teaching and serng and service.

Since the government launched this campaign some few years back, our nation has dismally failed to popularly embrace it. Again, we often tend to see it as the responsibility of someone else, such that when matric results come out and are poor, none comes forth to take responsibility, everyone blames another.

In the first instance, the current examinations method is not the best means to test understanding, knowledge and the culture and extent of learning and teaching; and neither is it even the best way of reinforcing the culture of learning, teaching and service.

Certainly, it does make sense that the current final examination method should be scrapped in favour of one that will promote the culture of year-long and day-to-day learning and teaching. The two are mutually reinforcing.

Affirming the culture of learning, teaching and service is everybody`s responsibility: parents, students, teachers and government.

This campaign must become a popular grassroots movement, a local people`s campaign, in which all tiers of government participate. It must aim to achieve social discipline and responsibility among all stakeholders: to achieve the provision of adequate services; the protection of school property from theft and abuse; a fight against crime and sexual, psychological and physical abuse of, especially, female students and teachers; and intensive learning and teaching.

Among others, popular imagery must be used to capture the imagination of the public about the ills of our schools and society, and about the things we all ought to pay attention to if we are to succeed in this campaign. We must use methods that can draw the focused attention of students, teachers and society in general, such as drama, music and others.

And, this is exactly what YIZO YIZO attempts to achieve.

What YIZO YIZO, therefore, dramatises is the crude and bitter daily life experiences of many schools in South Africa trying, against social and economic diversity, to cope with this situation. It points us towards the negative things happening in schools which must be addressed at the same time as it indicates the positive things to be reinforced.

It serves as a shock therapy for the nation, bringing into every living room the actual, and not imagined, experiences of many female students terrorised by criminals inside and outside schools; of many schools where some try hard to learn and become model students but are intimidated by tsotsis; where some teachers try very hard to do their job while others are just irresponsible, indifferent, are themselves thugs that abuse female students; of some responsible and concerned parents and communities who take a keen interest in the learning of their children while others are just irresponsible and indifferent; of police that try to help schools address crime while while others are ever absent.

It achieves its goal when it incites us, makes everybody angry and invokes in us a deep sense that something is terribly wrong if there is so much violence, and lack of learning and teaching in schools.

At least then we can start discussing ways and means to put a decisive end to this phenomenon that characterises the real life of many schools.

To behave like an ostrich, and bury our heads in the sand in the face of this reality, as if this reality will go away, would be grossly irresponsible.

There are those that do exactly this, behaving like King Canute, thinking that they can turn back or stop waves, as if these problems, if denied, will certainly go away.

None can expect a mere drama series to do for us the things that we, as a people, are either unable or unwilling to do. A drama series, like YIZO YIZO, must only reinforce the work that we are already doing as a nation. It cannot do our work and achieve our goals !

It is the duty of this society to motivate the students to learn, teachers to teach, parents to monitor and guide the learning and teaching and process, communities to play a central role in the life of schools and the police to do their part to protect schools.

It is the duty of this society to teach children to distinguish between good and bad, between fact and fiction; to know that "Papa Action" is only a bad fictitious ch fictitious character that must not be emulated.

It is the duty of this society to instil new moral values different from those of "Papa Action" and his ilk in the drama.

It is the duty of this society to put forward role models that would be emulated by the youth.

Very often, when young people search for role models, they tend to forget or take for granted the women and men who are our parents who struggle with the adversity of life in order to create at least a decent living for us - to get us a home, meals, education and the safety, security and comfort of the family.

The contribution they make in our lives cannot be compared or equalled to anything that another person can ever make in your life.

Our responsibility as a nation, unlike the student who blamed others for the tall grass in his school, is to take full charge of our destiny and toiny and to become the architects and constructors of this destiny.

The restoration and, in some instances, the creation of the culture of learning, teaching and service is the responsibility, not of a drama series, but of everyone in society.

Clearly, the YIZO YIZO gang must be stamped upon by the collective of the criminal justice system and the Palestine (Organge Farm) community. We cannot, for example, destroy all the flowers simply because there is the Flower gang in Cape Town. We must put an end to these terrorists !

As for YIZO YIZO, I think it strikes deep in our consciousness and exposes our weaknesses and worst fears.

Certainly, it is making an impact, and a positive impact at that !

Malusi Gigaba
President
African National Congress Youth League