Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu appeals to UCT students to help make South Africa an amazing country. Photo: Cindy Waxa

Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s call for a wealth tax got a lot of people hot under the collar, in that great journalistic cliche (how many of us wear collars anyway?).

What I’d really like is a chance to thrash this out with the bishop.

I am a formerly (and still) advantaged white South African and I pay a lot of tax... and I mean a lot. I pay for my own health care and my own security and for a large portion of my son’s education and I fully expect that that will all keep going up. I don’t begrudge any of this money - it is the price I pay for our history, and I am glad to pay it. Other people have paid far higher than this.

But I am not happy for my money to be wasted. So a recent report on IOL about primary education got me all hot under the non-existent collar.

The story said that rural and township school teachers use less than 50 percent of class time on teaching, with the majority of their non-teaching time spent sitting in staff rooms.

Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga is quoted as saying research indicated that rural and township pupils in grades 3 and 6 could not count or understand what they had been taught.

She was speaking at the National Teachers’ Union annual conference in Empangeni.

“In African schools, 41 percent (of class time) is used for teaching; this has been proven by research. We have to use every hour to serve and protect teaching. We aren’t asking for much; let’s use teaching time for what it is meant,” she said.

She said the only distinguishing factor between well-performing schools and those which fared badly was that teachers were in class, teaching on time, at successful schools.

“If in Grade 3 the national average performance in literacy was 35 percent, it means that 65 percent of our product is damaged if we were to speak in business terms.

“The learning deficiencies showed that too little learning is happening in most schools. If pupils cannot write, it means they weren’t taught. Poverty has nothing to do with it; they just weren’t taught,” she said.

Now this enrages me - my money is paying for teachers to sit around in the staff room, by the admission of the government minister responsible for making sure that they don’t do that.

It’s simple, Arch - I’ll pay a wealth tax with pleasure if and when I’m sure it will be spent on something sensible.