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Archive for the ‘Misc’ Category

The Fixation on Education as a Cure-all is Diverting Us from Tackling Our Problems – Steven Friedman

Race, Class and PowerIn the midst of the raging #FeesMustFall campaign, the director of the Centre for the Study of Democracy Steven Friedman, who wrote Race, Class and Power: Harold Wolpe and the Radical Critique of Apartheid, reflected on the myth of education as a cure for all of South Africa’s problems.

“Just about everyone agrees that education is a solution to most of our — and everyone else’s — economic problems. Sadly, just about everyone is probably wrong,” Friedman writes in a recent Business Day column, which he shared as a post on his Facebook page, explaining why there are no miraculous powers hidden in education. He notes that this is not only a local myth but also popular abroad, as seen for example in British prime minister Tony Blair’s call for “education education education”.

“Not only is education not a miracle cure, but the fixation with its supposed healing powers may be diverting us from tackling our problems,” the political scientist says.

Read Friedman’s reflection for a completely different take on the current debate around education:

Education is not the cure-all it is made out to be

JUST about everyone agrees that education is a solution to most of our — and everyone else’s — economic problems. Sadly, just about everyone is probably wrong.

A week in which university students are resisting fee increases is a good time to reflect on a constant theme in our national debate — the wondrous healing powers of education.

It is only a slight exaggeration to say that whenever South Africans debate a problem someone will insist, to agreeing nods, that the solution is more and better education.

Nor is this response peculiarly South African: the former British prime minister Tony Blair once claimed that “education, education, education” would solve his country’s problems.

Visiting French economist Thomas Piketty also told us recently of education’s role in reducing inequality here.

Surely this is obvious?

Well, no. Not only is education not a miracle cure, but the fixation with its supposed healing powers may be diverting us from tackling our problems.

Before the accusations begin, the benefits of an education are obvious, particularly to those of us lucky enough to have one. But education is not the cure-all solution it is meant to be.

Recently, Ricardo Hausmann, a former Venezuelan cabinet minister and academic economist who is no wild-eyed radical, published an article showing that education is not on its own an engine of economic growth. His numbers show that huge growth in education levels over the past 50 years have not translated into equivalent growth in the economy.

Hausmann pointed out that China’s educational progress lags behind that of Tunisia, Mexico, Kenya and Iran — yet it grew much faster than any of them. He added that if education on its own produced growth, Albania, Armenia and Sri Lanka would not be poverty stricken: “Whatever is preventing these countries from becoming richer, it is not lack of education.”

Nor does evidence necessarily show that education is a fix for inequality: recent research by the Brookings Institution in the US shows that while, not surprisingly, poor people improve their situation if they receive an education, this does not reduce overall inequality.

It is also clear that education often produces inequality — the well-off attend the best schools and universities, while the poor make do with the education system’s crumbs. So it may well be that equality is needed to fix education, not that education is needed to fix inequality.

More than 20 years ago, sociologist Harold Wolpe argued against the idea that education alone could erode inequality if other measures were not taken to attend to the problem. The evidence supports him.
There are many debates about the link between education, on the one hand, and poverty and inequality on the other.

But what is clear is that it is simply not true that education on its own solves these problems — at the very least, other remedies are needed.

This is why harping on education can hold us back — by diverting our attention from other problems that need attention.

A frequent problem is that the education argument becomes a handy excuse for those who are doing well and do not want anything to change.

For them, the argument that “education is the answer” really means that “they” should stop complaining about “us”. Instead, “they” should realise that “we” are doing well because we know much more than them — if “they” want to be like “us”, they should learn how.

The handy thing about this argument is that it places all the blame on people at the bottom and requires no change at all from those at the top. Like the claim that voters need “education” whenever they behave in a way that elites dislike, this is more about making people at the top feel better than about solving problems.

Even where the purpose is not to shift blame on to the poor, focusing on education at the expense of other priorities can worsen problems — an oft-cited example in our region is Zimbabwe, which made substantial gains in education after majority rule, but did not fix the other problems that needed attention if it was to prosper.

Inequality remains our deepest problem — far too deep to be solved by one “fix” alone. It requires a range of solutions, all of which need to be negotiated among the major economic actors and all of which require all to change the way they do things and to give up some of what they have in the interests of a future that can work for all. Education may feature in that process — but it is no substitute for it.

On Friday, the day which saw masses gather at the Union Building in Pretoria to hear president Zuma announce a zero percent increase in tertiary education fees, Friedman spoke to CapeTalk’s John Maytham, saying he believes the campaign won’t hurt the ANC government.

With regards to the #FeesMustFall campaign, Friedman says, “It is important, but it is not as significant as many people think”.

Listen to the podcast to find out why he says so:


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“Literature Everywhere Needs Writers that are Paid” – Nthikeng Mohlele

Rusty BellSmall ThingsNthikeng Mohlele recently chatted to Africa39 about the books and authors who have influenced him personally and professionally, his recent artistic projects and the challenges facing writers.

“I think literature everywhere needs writers that are paid, prizes worth winning, greater cross pollination between world cultures and civilisations through translations and preservation,” the author of Rusty Bell and Small Things says.

“Why should great books be out of print—yet no drug dealer runs out of cocaine and heroin or whatnot?”

Read the article:

What are the main challenges you see facing artists, writers, and literary culture in your country and region? How are you ameliorating these difficulties? What specific things would you like to see done in order to address these challenges?

I suppose the overarching limitation in South Africa is the fact that people don’t buy fiction like they do non fiction. Second, as a developing country in a devolving region, it is to be expected that there are more pressing things to people’s time and resources than chasing books—an unfortunate tragedy. Writers should be paid as well as well paid DJs—for instance.

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How Antjie Krog Uses Literary Tropes to Speak Poetry to Power – Anthea Garman

Antjie Krog and the Post-Apartheid Public SphereAnthea Garman’s recently released book, Antjie Krog and the Post-Apartheid Public Sphere: Speaking Poetry to Power, explores the significant role that Antjie Krog has played in the post-apartheid public sphere.

The associate professor in the School of Journalism and Media Studies at Rhodes University obtained her PhD on “Antjie Krog: Self and Society, the Making and Mediation of a Public Intellectual in South Africa” from Wits University in 2009. She did research on Krog’s currency as a writer of testimony, witness and public intellectual.

Garman has shared an essay entitled “Antjie Krog, the ‘African’, Afrikaans, South African Citizen and Intellectual” on her page. The article can be found in African Intellectuals and Decolonization, a collection of essays edited by Nicholas M Creary.

Read the article, in which Garman explains how Krog uses her stance as a literary figure to address social ills:

The study of Krog’s position as a public figure in post-apartheid South Africa shows very clearly that she does not enter the public domain as a Saidian-type intellectual “speaking truth to power” or as an African drawing on rational-critical debate to make an argument, or even from the base of national democratic struggle speaking on behalf of the majority. Krog’s style of operation is to use the literary and its formulations of public address, and the licence literary styles and devices provide, and to bend this to her particular purposes. She continues the TRC work she did as a journalist through her poetry, curations, collections, translations and other writings. She ventures into the performance of Saidian public intellectualism only occasionally via the opinion and comment pages in newspapers. Unlike commentators like Xolela Mangcu, who boldly self-describes as a “public intellectual” and an “African”, she never does so. Her firm location in the literary – coupled to her reach way beyond the literary field – gives Krog the freedom to continue to use literary tropes and techniques to perform in public the responsibilities of new South African citizenship in relation to the majority – still functionally dispossessed. She uses the autobiographic and the personal to deftly craft a public persona for herself which shows itself to be responsive to national concerns of damage and discrimination, access to voice and the crafting of a democracy that gives rights and benefits to the majority of South Africans.

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Pedro Tabensky and Sally Matthews Invite the Rethinking of Higher Education in Being at Home

Being at ‘Home’UKZN Press presents Being at Home: Race, Institutional Culture and Transformation at South African Higher Education Institutions, edited by Sally Matthews and Pedro Tabensky:

Being at Home stimulates careful conversation about some of the most pressing issues facing higher education institutions in South Africa today – race, transformation and institutional culture.

While there are many reasons to be despondent about the current state of affairs in the South African tertiary sector, this collection is intended as an invitation for the reader to see these problems as opportunities for rethinking the very idea of what it is to be a university in contemporary South Africa. It is also, more generally, an invitation for us to think about what it is that the intellectual project should ultimately be about, and to question certain prevalent trends that affect – or, perhaps, infect – the current global academic system. This book will be of interest to all those who are concerned about the state of the contemporary university, both in South Africa and beyond.

Contributors: Minesh Dass, Natalie Donaldson, Bruce Janz, Nigel C Gibson, Lewis R Gordon, Amanda Hlengwa, Sally Matthews, Thaddeus Metz, Thando Njovane, Pedro Tabensky, Paul C Taylor, Samantha Vice and Louise Vincent

About the editors

Pedro Tabensky is the founding director of the Allan Gray Centre for Leadership Ethics in the Department of Philosophy at Rhodes University. He is the author of Happiness: Personhood, Community, Purpose and several articles and book chapters. Tabensky is a regular commentator in the national and international media.

Sally Matthews teaches in the Department of Political and International Studies at Rhodes University. In addition to her interest in higher education transformation in South Africa, she teaches and writes about the politics of development and more generally about rethinking African Studies.

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Christopher Ballantine’s Marabi Nights and Goolam Vahed’s Chatsworth Awarded UKZN Book Prizes

Marabi NightsChatsworthMarabi Nights: Jazz, ‘Race’ and Society by Christopher Ballantine and Chatsworth: The Making of a South African Township edited by Ashwin Desai and Goolam Vahed have been awarded 2012/13 University of KwaZulu-Natal Book Prizes.

Ballantine was awarded the Category A – Academic Book, while Vahed received the Category B – Edited Book award.

“The University of KwaZulu-Natal Book Prize is a prestigious honour for our authors,” Adele Branch of UKZN Press says. “The number of submissions is huge, especially as there are a lot of academics who publish books via overseas publishers, through departments and other avenues.

“We are proud of these two titles – they are certainly iconic in the true sense of the word as they each address something unique in South Africa, and, although being academic titles, are written in a very accessible styles which make them attractive to a wide reading audience.”

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Thando Mgqolozana’s A Man Who is Not a Man Described as “A Searingly Powerful Novel”

A Man Who is Not a ManChris Dunton has written to The Guardian in response to an article titled “The Future of South African Literature” by Stuart Kelly, commenting that the article focuses too heavily on an older generation of writers especially as, “there is a real sense that younger writers have been liberated to address any aspect of experience in their immensely complex society that they wish.”

Dunton refers to Thando Mgqolozana‘s book A Man Who is Not a Man to prove his point, noting that it is “a searingly powerful novel that tackles the persistence of cultural practices such as ritual circumcision.”

Though headlined “The Future of South African Literature”, Stuart Kelly’s piece (Saturday Review, 13 December) focuses almost entirely on authors whose careers are drawing to a close and whose overriding preoccupation in their writing was the workings of apartheid and of resistance to it. In the years that have followed the demise of apartheid, South African literature has continued to address apartheid and the oppressions that have survived it, but from fresh perspectives. More especially, there is a real sense that younger writers have been liberated to address any aspect of experience in their immensely complex society that they wish.

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Henk Pretorius, Director of Fanie Fourie’s Lobola, Discusses the Movie’s Break from the Norm

Fanie Fourieâ��s LobolaHenk Pretorius, the director (who also serves as the co-producer and co-writer) of the film based on the book Fanie Fourie’s Lobola by Nape ‘A Motana, talked to the Citizen about the response the movie has been getting around the world.

Pretorius seems deservingly proud of Fanie Fourie’s Lobola. He said: “Borders are for scared people. Fanie Fourie and Dinky Magubane are brave enough to break through those perceptions, deal with the consequences head-on and overcome these obstacles in a fresh and honest way.” The movie, about an interracial South African couple dealing with the ups and downs of a cross-cultural relationship, is being released in South Africa today.

Pretorius also spoke about his current and future plans, including one that will see him setting up “an international movie franchise in the next three years” which will “be responsible for creating the content for a major distribution company abroad”.

Henk Pretorius is one of the co-writers and co-producers, as well as the director of Fanie Fourie’s Lobola. It tells the story of an ordinary Afrikaner who falls in love with a black woman and the consequences their actions have on both their conservative families and friendship circles.

How did you manage the mindshift from Bakgat [on which Pretorius served as writer, co-producer and director for the first two films] to Fanie Fourie’s Lobola?

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Podcast: Denis Hurley Remembered on SAfm

Denis Hurley: Truth to PowerSAfm has shared the podcast of a show that commemorated Denis Hurley’s life. The show took place on the occasion of what would have been his 97th birthday. Bishop Rubin Phillip was in the studio to talk about Hurley’s life, and Dr May Mkize, a trustee of the Denis Hurley Centre was on the phone with SAfm to share her memories.

His biographer Paddy Kearney, who wrote Denis Hurley: Truth to Power, was also in studio to answer questions from listeners, and others who knew him, who called in to share their memories of the beloved archbishop of Durban.

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Gisele Turner Reports on the Launch of the Updated Marabi Nights by Christopher Ballantine

Marabi NightsGisele Turner from Going Places SA attended the recent launch of the updated and expanded second edition of Marabi Nights: Jazz, ‘Race’ and Society by Christopher Ballantine at the UKZN Centre for Jazz and Popular Music.

Turner describes Ballantine’s address at the event in which he talked about his “long and sometimes fraught journeys tracking down recordings, on old 78 rpm’s gathering dust in small shops or lying forgotten in cupboards in township homes.” She says of the book that Christopher Ballantine “followed his heart and his head” and has created something that is both informative and engaging.

The updated and expanded second edition of Christopher Ballantine’s seminal book on South African Jazz from the 1920’s to the 1960’s Marabi Nights was launched in appropriate style at UKZN’s Centre for Jazz & Popular Music. Dr Sazi Dlamini played acoustic guitar and was accompanied by his brother Njeza on that rare home-made instrument, the T-Box Bass. Dr Nishlyn Ramanna – a jazz pianist, composer and educator, gave a breezily eloquent address and Christopher Ballantine’s speech was clean, informal and interesting.

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Christopher Ballantine’s Marabi Nights Launched at UKZN’s Centre for Jazz and Popular Music

Christopher Ballantine

The launch of esteemed musicologist Chris Ballantine’s Marabi Nights: Jazz, ‘race’ and society in early apartheid South Africa (second edition) took place, appropriately, at the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s Centre for Jazz and Popular Music, last Friday night.

Christopher Ballantine Marabi NightsIntroducing the book to a relaxed and receptive audience, publisher Debra Primo from UKZN Press said that it was important to them to publish works that uncovered, or recovered, previously ignored histories. She thanked Ballantine for bringing his manuscript to them, saying they were glad to have it on their list of scholarly titles.

Nishlyn Ramanna, a lecturer in jazz music at Rhodes University, took over from Primo; describing Marabi Nights as “the seminal work in SA jazz studies”. He said that Ballantyne’s book was “compellingly deft”, noting the enclosed CD which takes you into the world of South African jazz. He explained that the author has meshed the theories of renowned European intellectual Theodor Adorno with those of South African scholars to develop a “post-colonial take on an irrepressibly African proletarian consciousness”. Ramanna described Marabi Nights as epistemologically pioneering, saying it was a blend of humanities and social science thinking. He added that because it is “empirically rich, adroit and elegantly written”, it makes an excellent teaching resource. He also praised Ballantine for his deep commitment to transformation.

Following on from Ramanna, Ballantine said he begs to differ from US trumpeter Duke Ellington who said, “too much talk about music stinks the place up”. When focussing on oral history (as Ballantine’s book does), he says, “one must talk about music”.

He explained that, when writing the book, he had to do a lot of sleuth work in order to find disappeared musicians. He said sometimes he was massively disappointed when people died before he could talk to them. “Spending long hot afternoons scouring the intestines of Boksburg, Benoni or Mooi River was depressing,” he said, “but sometimes on a cupboard would be a few priceless recordings from the thirties or forties, which the proprietor would let you have for next to nothing”.

He noted that his book was a collective endeavour, in that it could never have happened without the collaboration of music lovers here and abroad. He noted with sadness that many involved in creating the book have died since the launch of the first edition. He explained the motivation for publishing a second edition thus: firstly, due to his ongoing research, he was in a position to tell a much fuller story than the first edition does, writing about SA jazz right up to 1960 – the “darkest years of apartheid”; secondly, the demand for the book has not diminished; and thirdly, “post-apartheid SA has not met expectations, and we need to refocus attention on the social claims that the first edition of Marabi Nights makes”.

He quoted renowned author Milan Kundera who said, “The struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting,” saying he hoped his book would help people remember a lost time. Ballantine thanked Debra Primo and her “excellent staff” for publishing his book, as well as Raymond Suttner, a friend who pushed him to consider writing a second edition. He also expressed gratitude to esteemed jazz singer Sibongile Khumalo for writing the foreword to the book; Sazi and Jeza Dlamini for providing music at the launch, and Nishlyn Ramanna for travelling up from Grahamstown to attend the event.

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