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It HAS been going on for eight months and the textbook crisis in Limpopo is still the open sore of the nation. Exams will be starting soon. The yoghurt has hit the spinning fan. The Minister of Basic Education, Angie Motshekga, is the principal cause of this. The woman is totally lost, just like a child in the jungle. The fact is that she has dismally failed to discharge her duties with respect to the supply of schoolbooks in Limpopo. And like a drowning person, she is frantically trying to hold on to anything or anyone in sight.
I was totally surprised when, on Friday, her office, through her spokesperson Panyaza Lesufi, levelled the blame on premier Cassel Mathale. That is outrageous.
What a shame for our great nation. Yes, it is a shame that a minister can run away from her responsibilities and point a finger at Mathale after the mess that she has made in Limpopo. We are horrified by the crushing misery and frustrations suffered by Limpopo children and their teachers because of the ministry’s underperformance.
It is public knowledge that the national ministry took over the Limpopo education department in December. The objective of the takeover, I guess, was to turn things around. Surprisingly, the ministry neglected its duty of supplying textbooks in Limpopo until the NGO Section 27 took it to court and won. The question is, why did Motshekga wait to be dragged to court before she could see the sanity of supplying the children of Limpopo with books?
The court gave the ministry the deadline of June 15 for the supply of all the books. She dismally failed to deliver. The deadline was then extended to June 27 but still she failed. The ministry then lied to the nation by saying that 98 percent of books had been delivered. But an investigation found out that only 15 percent of the textbooks had been delivered. That is surely not on, especially for a national ministry. Everyone can see that at the core of this problem is poor leadership.
From the time when mountains were still rocks of iron memory, humanity put a great premium on education. This happened because education resides right at the heart of our country’s future. It is therefore needless to say that without it, our country’s future is doomed.
We as a nation should see education as the lifeblood of our being, and any minister who is deployed as its champion, should have the ability to lead and to listen to the voices that ask tough questions and demand accountability and delivery.
A true leader is one who has the ability to identify a common purpose embedded in a situation of conflict. A true leader rises above a crisis from a position of intelligence and imagination. A true leader does not lie to the nation and shift the blame. And a true leader knows that leadership is an act of transformation, taking nothing and turning it into something. If a true leader fails, he/she admits the failure and apologises publicly.
Motshekga should know that she is in the service of the people that she is leading, children included. Her accusation of Mathale reminds me of the novel After Tears by Niq Mhlongo. In it a young law student goes home and has a new nickname “Advo”, short for advocate.
He goes home and people say: “Advo is back, he has got a degree”.
But he says: “I can’t get my degree because I owe the university a lot of money and as such they won’t allow me to graduate”.
It is actually a lie because he has failed. He lives with this lie and his mother sells the family house to pay for him. He lets her do it, never saying anything until, right at the end, they have lost everything and they discover that he has been lying.
When education is under siege like this, as a nation we don’t have to wait for its total collapse in Limpopo before action is taken against Motshekga. And the speedy solution of the crisis will represent the restoration of hope – hope for a better future for our people. We should declare a bright future for all the children of this country as our common goal. If this happens, our beacon as a nation will remain bright in successive generations. And when we die, life will surely miss us.
As Nelson Mandela once said, “A leadership commits a crime against its own people if it hesitates to sharpen its political weapons where they have become less effective”.
We have a commitment, especially to the poor. The circle of poverty can be broken only with quality education. A doctor’s mistakes lie in the graveyard, but the mistakes in education daily roam the streets as the unemployed, criminals, thieves, hobos and the mentally disturbed. We can’t give up.
l Abe Mokoena is a government employee in Limpopo, and writes in his personal capacity.