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Zuma must go, but who will fix education?

Like many others, I heard our president speaking in the National Assembly this week. President Jacob Zuma sounded completely unaware of the definition of a democracy, because, apparently, lying is covered in that.

Faith Daniels column

Yes, lying, as in not telling the truth, is right up there with the freedom to speak your mind, according to the president. Furthermore, he was dismissive of the possibility of a ratings downgrade, because, you see, these things happen, and it's no biggie. 

Zuma's performance in parliament this week took me back to a recent conversation with a unionist. We talked about the fact that prominent ANC leaders, past and present, are now adding their voices to a growing number of individuals calling on the president to leave his job. 

Jacob Zuma in Parliament_gcis
Photo: GCIS

After a damning Public Protector report on state capture, an embarrassing attempt to stop it from being made public, and revelations about just how many times certain individuals were in the Saxonworld area, we are all feeling the pressure. We are tired. All we want to do is say enough now. Stop it. That's why it's good to know that some of these prominent leaders feel the same way, that they are not out of touch with the realities of South Africa, which is losing a chunk of its credibility each and every day.

During my conversation with the unionist, he asked: While everyone is worried about their positions and clinging to power, what is happening with our teachers? That's a valid question. And it could be applied to so many of the decaying sectors in our society. Recently there was another matric exam paper leak in the Limpopo province. How much longer must we wait to have a glitch-free matric exam? The unionist decried the fact that that province has a crisis with its leadership, but really the crisis is larger than that. Much larger. 

When all is said and done, these issues must be addressed. Long after Zuma, our children, as with the Fees Must Fall campaign, will judge us harshly and demand that we address their needs. We can then keep pretending that we didn't know what was coming and face the consequences. It's like the beginning of the school year, every single year, without fail. There will be some children who don't find a space. There will be children waiting to start their education until the end of January. And officials will tell you that this is as a result of the growing demand for education. If you know that, then why didn't you make the necessary arrangements sooner?

It is more than just appalling when, years into our democracy, we let our leaders get away with describing major problems as "challenges", that we let our president get away with saying "there is a plan" to deal with our university crisis, and that we are okay with a body like the South African Council for Educators warning bogus teachers to leave the system before action is taken against them.

When did we get to this point, where we see wrongs being committed and we warn people to run before what must actually happen to them - criminal prosecution? How will this inability to act help our children and the good honest, qualified teachers sitting at home without a job? 

It is not a good place to be. It is not acceptable to describe the rising temperature and discontent as par for the course in a democracy. We shouldn't settle for counting ourselves lucky that we can criticise the government for doing the minimum and less.

I am tired of press conferences about the strides that have been made "but we still have a long way to go". When is this long way ending? When do we get the country and the president we deserve? I want to write a good news story, but I can't seem to find one. I want to write a piece on a well-functioning education system. One that runs without excuses and challenges. 

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