THE BIG READ: Callous DA shuts doors of learning on the poor
The recent decision by the Western Cape department of education to close 27 schools because they are underperforming, tragic as it is, reminds me of a comedy show aired several years ago on one of the SABC TV channels.
The Pure Monate Show, created by top comedians Kagiso Lediga and David Kau, provided a weekly dose of entertainment from unfolding socioeconomic issues.
In one episode, a militarily-clad despotic leader addresses a crowd of supporters, waxing lyrical about the achievements brought about by his decades-long rule and how grateful his people should be to live in such a wonderful country. At the end, the despot - in an image strikingly similar to that of the late Zairean dictator Mobutu Sese Seko - confidently asks his people if there is still anything his government can do for them.
To his chagrin, a flurry of hands are raised in the crowd, followed by excited chants of "joblessness, joblessness, joblessness!"
Irritated by the ungrateful and demanding crowd, the despot jumps from his throne and instructs: "Those who are without jobs move to my right now, and those with jobs to my left!"
The despot then pulls out a machine gun and wipes out the unemployed section of the crowd at once.
He turns to the astonished remaining members of the crowd and boastfully proclaims: "We have now dealt with the scourge of unemployment; our employment rate is now 100%!"
While Western Cape education MEC Donald Grant cannot be compared to a bloodthirsty dictator, there are some similarities in his leadership style with regard to tackling the education challenges facing his province.
Grant cited persistently poor results, poor school infrastructure and a number of pupils attending schools outside of the areas in which they reside as some of the reasons to shut down the schools.
Cosatu, the SA Democratic Teachers' Union and Equal Education criticised this decision and have vowed to protest against it.
The principals of the 27 schools and the affected communities will support any action against this narrow and self-serving decision.
The problems of ageing infrastructure and underperformance cannot be made to disappear by shutting down schools.
Instead, Grant's department should be providing conducive education environments for those schools to realise their potential.
A comprehensive diagnosis should be conducted to ensure schools that struggle to obtain the required pass rate are supported by the provincial government, not closed.
As observed by Equal Education, the DA's short-sighted option cannot be an effective solution to underperformance.
Complex factors contribute to pupils' not performing. These include the environment in schools and communities, language of instruction, the amount of support teachers receive and the influence of gangsterism.
These are problems the provincial department should be finding practical and lasting solutions to.
Another reason Grant gave for the closures is that most of the pupils at the affected schools do not live in nearby communities.
The decision is clearly meant to perpetuate the apartheid-era Group Areas Act, which enforced the segregation of races to specific areas.
This should not come as a surprise, however, given that communities from outside the Western Cape are regarded by that government as "refugees".
The DA has always regarded racial integration in that province as a threat to its power base, and has therefore worked tirelessly to divide the province along racial lines.
Another problem with the DA is its obsession with statistics - without due regard to the structural problems crying for urgent attention - as proof that it can govern better than the ANC.
It is soulless, devoid of empathy and lacks any understanding of the hardships and struggles of the communities over which it governs.
The decision to close struggling schools is a ploy to boost matric pass statistics and give a false impression that the Western Cape is the best performer. The DA has always pushed for glowing stats, even doctoring them, at the expense of real development of the province's poor people.
This is no different to the tactic used by the despot who shot jobless people as a means to achieve a 100% unemployment rate.
Whether this thoughtless strategy will guarantee the DA a 100% matric pass in the Western Cape remains to be seen.
Mothapo is the spokesman for the ANC parliamentary chief whip