Some affluent black professionals, who are considered influential in South Africa’s media circles, whose names I will not mention as a matter of professional courtesy, have been referring to other black individuals who are not as articulate as them in the English language as “30 Percenters”.
The question that arises is: Considering the socio-economic and educational dynamics of South Africa, is it politically correct to refer to other individuals who are not as articulate as you in expressing their political views as 30 percenters?
It’s an interesting debate to have, especially when one engages in a deconstructive analysis of our public education system which is in crisis.
Currently, an average mark of 30% is the base requirement for a matric pass in South Africa’s public education system.
However, there are other boxes to consider in order for one to pass matric.
According to the Department of Basic Education, in order to affect a pass for matric, learners need to take a minimum of seven subjects, which includes ensuring that you pass your home language with at least 40% and ensuring that you score 40% or more in at least two other subjects.
In addition, it is compulsory to ensure that one of the other languages is either English or Afrikaans.
One could argue that what is disturbing about the notion of referring to others as 30 percenters is that it appears to emanate from a disregard of the status of our public education system which often operates in crisis mode largely due to the fact that it was inherited from an apartheid government that believed in the separate development of children based on race.
For many black children in public schools it was characterised by Bantu Education. A policy that was implemented to ensure that black children only go to school to serve as labourers, garden boys and domestic workers.
South Africa’s public schooling system caters mostly to black children who are among the poorest of the poor.
In rural areas, in provinces such as the Eastern Cape, Limpopo, KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga, children have to walk many kilometres just to get an education.
In most cases, when they finally get to school, they must deal with schools that do not have the right facilities to cater for their basic needs such as adequate toilets, proper classrooms, computers, text books or even teachers who are available to teach.
There are schools where some learners are taught under a tree yet are expected to perform on the same level as those who have quality, private school education which has enabled them to speak with an English “twang” that is fallaciously used as a measure of intelligence.
Those who manage to defy the odds, who make it into the economic system as blue or white-collar workers, may not be as articulate in the English language as some of our media personalities, but is it fair to refer to them as 30 percenters?
These are the questions we need to raise in order to fully comprehend the negative effects of classism in a highly unequal society such as South Africa.