Last week Helen Zille found herself in the middle of a furore over her use of the term “education refugees”, which she’d used to describe those families that seek a better future for their children outside the Eastern Cape. To be exact, the tweet stated the following, “While ECape education collapsed, WC built 30 schools – 22 new, 8 replacement mainly 4 ECape edu refugees. 26 MORE new schools coming.” Not only was this message a very depressing indication of the state of education in the Eastern Cape, but it was also a stinging highlight of how the provincial government has failed its people. Unfortunately, the ANC, instead of responding with a plan on how they were going to fix the situation, responded with the overused and tired deflective tactic that went something like, “Helen is a racist”.
So slap me down with a wet fish, but when did race become the issue here? Surely the fact that children in the Eastern Cape are being deprived of one of their basic human rights and are being forced to leave their homes to obtain a decent education elsewhere, should have had the general public up in arms. The loss of those children’s future, as a result of government neglect and incompetence, is the injustice here!
The Eastern Cape government, the national government, and President Zuma, must “divert” their attention to this crisis, and start tackling the issue hands on. Political tactics might be a money game for those who want power, but our children will continue to be the pawns, discarded and eventually sacrificed while the fat cats chill out in government. There is work to be done. The allocated budgets need to be put to work. Teachers need to be in the classrooms and SADTU needs to be reined in. The teacher union strikes paralyse the education system in the Eastern Cape, and yet President thanked “teachers unions” for their contribution to improving education in his State of the Nation address.
One of the biggest achievements by DA-led government in the Western Cape in the past two years has been their school building programme to accommodate the poorest learners, many from other provinces. This is the reality of a government that delivers, not a government that deflects. Which would you prefer? You Decide.
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This column first appeared in The South African, a UK newspaper, on the 03 April 2012.