Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Can’t do it for praise

The late ANC politician Steve Tshwete used to say that you shouldn’t praise a lion for catching a buck. This is what it does naturally, so it is only to be expected.

This is an observation we should apply elsewhere as well. What to make, then, of President Jacob Zuma’s exhortation that “teachers should be in school, in class, on time, teaching, with no neglect of duty and no abuse of pupils”?

This is surely the bare minimum that should occur, yet in many schools it is the exception, not the rule. Zuma observed that whereas in former whites-only schools, teachers teach in class for an average of 6,5 hours a day, in township schools they teach for only about 3,5 hours a day.

Can one really still blame apartheid for this extreme laziness that dooms millions of disadvantaged children to inferior education?

Dirty hospitals have been in the news lately, including pictures of mice droppings in a ward at the Chris Hani- Baragwanath Hospital. This hospital is not short of cleaners, so there is no excuse for a lack of basic hygiene. I once visited another major hospital to check a report that their cleaners were on strike, and the chief executive officer was only half-joking when he asked how could I tell?

Our expectations are so low that we are pleased by a traffic cop who doesn’t expect a bribe, or a policeman who can efficiently collect evidence and write down a statement. Gauteng premier Nomvula Mokonyane was widely praised for declaring that if police officers lost case dockets they would have to lose their jobs too. But isn’t this glaringly obvious, except that such sanction typically did not operate before?

Why after 15 years of ANC rule is there a need for the premier to declare that “acts of corruption, negligence and maladministration will be dealt with severely”?

It’s an admission of how bad things were previously, but as with alcoholism, recognising that you are an alcoholic is the necessary start on the road to recovery. Mokonyane got attention when she forced her Agriculture MEC to resign after her uninsured R1 million car was stolen, but this should have happened as a matter of course.

If you foul up big time, you should go, a message that was lost last week on Economic Development MEC Firoz Cachalia, who held not a single official to account for flawed motorsport contracts that contravened the law. They were so bad they had to be renegotiated to save R100 million, yet the top official who signed them is still in his job.

We have become a society in which mediocrity is the norm and expectations are lowered so that we feel indebted when we receive less than the best from our public employees.

This has serious consequences that damage the prospects of our society and condemn us to being second rate in a highly competitive world. We must set our standards far higher than teachers merely pitching up on time to do what they are paid to do.

As observed by the novelist Vanna Bonta: “The height of mediocrity is still low.”

3 Opinion(s):

Doberman said...

Good article Logs.

Exzanian said...

The scary thought is that SA is still in a "false vacuum" and that the lowest, dumberest, common denominator is still coming.

Norman said...

Alcoholism is a disease. You catch it from open bottles.