Archive | April 2013

Businesses throwing cash at education won’t solve problems

Written by Yazeed Kamaldien

Businesses investing in education should not throw money at problems but instead help schools build educator’s capacity for better results.

This is the response from education specialists regarding the R100-million donation to Free State schools from Shanduka Group, a company owned by ANC deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa, in early March.

Kagiso Trust, an education support NGO with an investment wing, matched Ramaphosa’s donation while the Free State education department said it would add R200-million towards efforts to improve education.

A total R400-million has been allocated for a five-year project implemented by Ramaphosa’s Adopt-a-School Foundation and Kagiso Trust. It will reportedly target 400 schools in Botshabelo, Thaba Nchu and Fezile Dabi district.

The Mail & Guardian reported at the time that funds would “benefit the schools through infrastructure improvement, as well as development of management skills and teachers’ curriculum knowledge.”

Ramaphosa challenged other businesses to do likewise because he believes government cannot go it alone to ensure quality public schooling.

Louis van Rhyn, founder of non-profit ç, said it was essential that businesses donated funds to education but returns on that investment depended on how the money would be spent.

Van Rhyn started Symphonia in 2010 to focus on strengthening schools via various interventions. Since then she discovered that schools do not want to be dependent on businesses, but seek them as partners in providing education.

“I absolutely agree whole-heartedly that business has a role to play (in education). We need to just be clear about what is the appropriate way,” she said.

“The old style is that business comes with a big cheques and think they can assert their authority on schools. That just creates dependency.

“It is demeaning and disrespectful. You must hear school principals talk about how businesses make donations to feel better and think that everybody should now be grateful.”

Van Rhyn says donations also needed to be appropriate to the needs of the school.

“Some schools have rooms where they keep all the stuff that businesses donated to them, but they can’t use. That school would be better off with another IT teacher or training for a Math teacher as most schools don’t have enough teachers or teacher support,” she said.

One of Symphonia’s projects matches business leaders with school principals. Van Rhyn says this was started because “our principals are not adequately supported so we are supporting principals.”

“We have to equip our school principals and support them. The best way to support them is to connect them to business,” she said.

So instead of asking businesses to donate funds, Symphonia asks business leaders to invest time at the school to offer principals insight into organisational, financial and resource management.

“It’s a reciprocal relationship and principals are treated as a resource in this process. Businesses bring their knowledge, skills and manpower into the schools. We bring business leaders in as a thinking partner for the principal. The business leader learns from the principal as well,” said Van Rhyn.

“You need to spend time at schools and find the real needs. Out of that you develop the right approach and a vision for a school. You help the school find what they need. You can’t just throw money at problems. We need capacity, skills and resources to improve education.”

Another vital lesson Van Rhyn learned was that principals value partnerships but “hate the idea of adopt-a-school.”

“They don’t want to be adopted. You don’t adopt a school. You can partner with a school. It’s not about a quick fix because that is not sustainable. The best way to go about this is for a business to make a five-year commitment to a school and work with it,” she said.

A number of major corporations with investments in education choose to intervene at primary school level, confirms research from the CRF Institute.

Its country manager Samantha Crous says corporates believe that South African education is in a crisis and they want to ensure an adequate talent supply for their ranks.

CRF Institute, formerly called Corporate Research Foundation, independently audits corporations and compiles its annual Top Employers list that indicates best performance in human resources and other fields.

Investment in education was a common thread among some top performers, said Crous.

“We are seeing significant investment in training and developing the whole person, with professional and financial services at the very top of the list; and this is encouraging. It means corporates are not content to accept a gradual dumbing down of the workforce,” said Crous.

She said Dimension Data had programmes to intervene at school level because the education system was in a “crisis.” This company offers bursaries and runs an entrepreneurship programme at high schools.

CRF says a total 27,500 learners have benefited from the company’s e-learning programmes across 53 schools and annually.

“Dimension Data’s Saturday School programme provides intensive support for 100 learners in reaching matric and preparing for higher education. Successes include a 100% matric pass rate, and 95% university entrance. In 2011, 50 of its learners notched up 68 distinctions,” said CRF.

CRF reflects on last year’s Annual National Assessment when framing the country’s education system as frail. It said that assessment showed by Grade 6, “the national average performance in languages was a scant 43% in the learner’s home language, and average performance in Math sat at 27%.”

“Clearly, learners are not getting what they need in schools. This has a knock-on effect at universities. The implications are also concerning for South Africa’s workforce, naturally,” said Crous.

“It is the school-leaving and graduate talent that is thin on the ground. And it is this that corporates are feeling the need to address.”

Crous cautioned though that it was “not always ideal” for businesses to finance education.

“We should be cautious of companies taking on the role of tertiary institutions. Universities and colleges do not have affiliations that can influence their teaching to the same extent that companies do. We should be vigilant both ethically and ideologically. And we certainly need to keep a close eye on what these professionals are being taught,” she said.

Equal Education lobby group meanwhile cautioned that businesses getting involved in education could be problematic.

Doron Isaacs, one of the group’s leaders, says Ramaphosa’s donation “in principle, it is positive.”

“As Ramaphosa suggests it is in fact a duty of business, not a kindness. But it is not positive when business simply wants to make money out of education, but when companies donate that is positive,” said Isaacs.

“The efficacy of the donation will depend on the merit in the project. In the past too many businesses have donated to gimmicks instead of proper investment in infrastructure, provision of textbooks and libraries, and teacher training and support. This is where investment is needed from government and business.”

He added: “Nevertheless we do urge business to coordinate their spending efforts with government, and not try to take over the governance of education.”


Post office plans stamps of music icons

Written by Yazeed Kamaldien

Ten iconic local musicians will be honoured in a new stamp collection, said the South African Post Office (SAPO) this week.

SAPO said the public would submit names to be considered for this collection. The ten selected would be musicians who “have played an influential role in shaping the country’s musical history and tradition.” They would also “have influenced lives through music.”

SAPO’s policy though stipulates that “no living persons can be portrayed on a stamp unless it is the president of a country.”

Johan van Wyk, senior manager of SAPO’s philatelic services, said they did not expect it “easy to shortlist 10 individuals from our rich tradition of talented and influential musicians.”

SAPO added: “Because stamps are small ambassadors for South Africa, it is important that the musicians selected reflect South Africa’s heritage, diversity and culture.”

SAPO said selection criteria include that the musician should have “developed a completely new, original style of music that is distinctively South African.”

“Changed the way people think about the world as a result of listening to the music of these musicians, for example, Koos du Plessis and the ‘Musiek en Liriek’ movement,” it added.

“A change or deeper understanding of the full spectrum of South African society resulting from listening to the music of these musicians, such as James

Phillips, Johannes Kerkorrel and Miriam Makeba.

“Should be representative of South African society and the musical styles should cover the most important or best-known musical genres… Achieved international success.”

Public submissions deadline, via the SAPO website, is Friday (May 3).

SA artist Robin Rhode carries on…

Written by Yazeed Kamaldien

In one of Cape Town-born artist Robin Rhode’s latest works, the geographical shape of South Africa becomes fragmented as it is swung on strings gripped in someone’s hands.

Rhode has been based in Berlin for the last decade and calls this piece ‘Carry On’.

“The shape (of South Africa) symbolises a piece of hand luggage. As the narrative of this work evolves, the geographical picture of SA evolves into a point of abstraction. So the carry on (luggage) relates to the inherent baggage that comes with the complex progression of our present modernity,” comments Rhode on this piece.

Carry On by Robin Rhode

Carry On by Robin Rhode

The work is a series of photographs documenting the different stages of fragmentation. Rhode uses walls as his canvas, graffiti or paints evolving images on to the walls and photographs these images to create picture stories that are exhibition in galleries worldwide.

His latest show in Cape Town includes other pieces that talk about his readings on black consciousness. The artist has also followed his “mission of making art accessible to the public” by creating a colour-in book on the gallery walls.

Rhode says he spent time with anti-apartheid author and poet Don Mattera last year. His conversations with the writer inspired his latest work.

‘Blackness Blooms’ is one of the pieces that arose from these interactions. Rhode says it takes its title from a line in one of Mattera’s poems: “Blackness blooms like a wound in the sky.”

“It’s taken from a poem by Uncle Don where he describes his incarceration. He told me how he was detained in a dark police cell. He said it was like a wound in the sky dripping liquid darkness,” said Rhode in Cape Town this week.

“I tried to envision what this wound or blackness could be. I wanted to create this visual narrative where a synonymous character is taking this enlarged comb and combing this wall and this round circle appears on it like a seed or even a wound in the sky. He uses this comb and it becomes larger and larger like an afro or also like a flower.”

The series of photos follows the progression of the small seed transforming into an afro.

Robin Rhode (left) with journalist Yazeed Kamaldien (in black) in Cape Town.

Robin Rhode (left) with journalist Yazeed Kamaldien (in black) in Cape Town.

Rhode says living abroad has enriched his work.

“It allows me access to strong historical periods in art history. I am able to reflect that back again onto my South African identity. In the end my work becomes a fusion of both modernities. It’s a steady growth of where I am from as well as the dominant discourse in Western modernity where I am based,” he said.

He looked happy to be showing his work in Cape Town, his birth city, for the first time. Rhode was raised and educated in Johannesburg before becoming a Berliner.

“This is the follow up after having placed my avant garde roots in Cape Town. This exhibition is an amalgamation of various ideas that I have been engaging in with regard to notions of wall drawings and how the aspects of the wall drawing has pervaded the aesthetics of southern Africa, dating back to the caves of the Bushmen,” he said.

His research on wall art took him to South African townships too, “that during apartheid history were reflections of struggle and hope.”

“The idea of the wall drawing is in our society but has not been grappled with as a concept. I have young children under the age of eight years old colouring in various graphics that I painted onto the wall. The gallery evolves into a large colour-in book, destabilising the notion of the gallery or a white space only occupied by a minority elite,” he said.

“It’s a space once again for social engagement. I thought that it was extremely important to create an exhibition with a strong social consciousness. This comes from my roots as a child of the Western Cape and as a product of the post-apartheid generation.”

The notion of turning the gallery into an accessible space is vital to Rhode’s work. He usually makes art works in city streets. What he shows in galleries are documentations in the form of photos and videos of those works.

“It has been my mission to make contemporary art and culture accessible to the majority of our population who have had limited access or means to engage with visual art,” he said.

At the same time, he wants to challenge how “society pushes us into these spaces where we are.”

“The idea that we are a democratic society was imposed on us. People are still coming to terms with who they are or how an identity was imposed on them.”

He added: “I’m trying to engage with grey areas. It’s also a psychological space where we are in our lives. It’s about being in a grey psychological space.”

Exploring the world through his art, Rhode walks often back to his childhood in Cape Town.

“I take my inspiration from daily life. I take inspiration from social interactions that I have experienced. Art is a philosophy. It should reflect and critique our daily lives. I also believe in the pleasure of process and experience,” he said.

He reflects in ‘Bones’, a work that sees him “grappling with my childhood” while making it a statement regarding his views on art. This series of photos shows enlarged drawings of dominoes on street walls, being set in motion, much like it would be thrown on a surface during a domino game.

“It’s about my experiences as a youth, playing dominoes with my father and uncles. It’s very part of my Cape Town upbringing. The source of inspiration is something which is not even a consciousness. It’s intuitive,” he said.

“I love the idea of the game as a symbol of inclusion and exclusion that is part and parcel of our reality. My art work functions as a completed game in that everyone, the audience and the viewer, is inclusive.

“This work is more about opening up a space for inclusive thought because you can then decide if you want to be part or not.”

Rhode’s latest exhibition ‘Paries Pictus’ opens at the Stevenson gallery, located at 160 Sir Lowry Road in Woodstock, tonight (Thursday APRIL 11). It runs until May 25.


Trade union tackles affirmative action in South Africa

Over the past few days, I’ve been reporting on trade union Solidarity’s action against the correctional services department at the Labour Court in Cape Town. These are the stories that I’ve written…


Written by Yazeed Kamaldien (29 April 2013)

Trade union Solidarity this week launched its Stop Race-firmative Action campaign to engage South Africans on “alternative ideas regarding affirmative action.”

The union is currently battling the department of correctional services at the Labour Court in Cape Town to ensure jobs for coloureds, whites and Indians.

Solidarity argues that the department favours blacks above others for jobs, by applying national quotas for the workplace. It says the Western Cape should be considered differently as it has more coloureds than blacks in the province.

Solidarity said this week “thousands of South Africans will be involved in the campaign through emails, SMS’s, a dedicated webpage and social media pages.”

Dirk Hermann, deputy general secretary of Solidarity, said the “government’s ideas on affirmative action are too readily accepted as all there is.”

He said Solidarity’s case against correctional services “illustrated to us the absurd consequences of an affirmative action programme based solely on race.”

“If the government’s plan is implemented to the last detail in the Western Cape it will mean that there are approximately one million coloured South Africans too many, since they constitute about 53% of the population in the Western Cape but are nationally less than 10% of the population,” said Hermann.

“That would mean that in the Western Cape coloured South Africans should literally be down managed from 53% to 10%, merely because a calculator determined the statistics. The only way to achieve that is by means of a huge social manipulation programme and forced removals.”

He added: “The government’s approach has developed into a mathematical approach replacing people with numbers. This has nothing to do with affirmation and everything to do with race.”

Hermann said Solidarity would contact 1,500 of the country’s largest employers on this issue next month. It has already sent text messages to 100,000 persons requesting support for its campaign to address affirmative action.



Written by Yazeed Kamaldien (April 25 2013)

Trade union Solidarity and its members yesterday charged ahead with claims that the correctional services department favours blacks over others for top jobs.

The union has taken legal action at the Labour Court in Cape Town against the department over its employment practices in the Western Cape.

It argues that the department should not apply national quota systems slanted towards employing more blacks. It says the Western Cape should be considered differently as blacks are not a majority in the province.

Solidarity believes correctional services discriminates particularly against coloureds, the majority race group in the province.

Lawyers for Solidarity and the correctional services department yesterday continued with cross-examination of Freddie Engelbrecht. He is the regional deputy commissioner at the Western Cape correctional services department.

Engelbrecht told the court that vacancies that whites and coloureds had applied for were re-advertised and left unfilled.

Advocate Marumo Moerane, representing correctional services, said the department’s employment tactics were “rational” and “lawful.”

Engelbrecht replied: “It is irrational. It was based on race… It’s unlawful. It’s based on race and people are being treated as objects.”

Engelbrecht told the court that posts that were not filled with blacks were also “abolished.” The former chairperson of the Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union (Popcru) said he also told this union that its support for the correctional service’s policies were “bad.”

“Popcru said that coloureds benefited from apartheid,” he said.

The previous day, Engelbrecht told the court that coloureds also suffered under apartheid and needed jobs too.

Senior Counsel Martin Brassey, Solidarity’s legal representative, asked Engelbrecht in court whether promotions were given to all race groups.

“Are white people given promotions or only affirmative action (candidates)?” asked Brassey.

Engelbrecht replied: “Only affirmative action.”

The matter continues in the Labour Court today (Friday).



Written by Yazeed Kamaldien (April 24 2013)

Coloureds, whites and Indians face racial discrimination when applying for promotion at the Western Cape’s correctional services department, heard the Labour Court in Cape Town yesterday.

Solidarity trade union, which represents a cross-section of workers, has taken the matter to the court on behalf of its members. It is opposing the national department of correctional services as well as the labour and correctional services ministers.

Dirk Groenewald, who works with Solidarity’s labour unit, said they were challenging national quotas that inhibited workplace advancement of coloureds, whites and Indians.

National legislation, aimed at redressing apartheid inequalities, states that the correctional services department should employ 79% black employees, 8,8% coloureds, 9,3% whites and 2,4% Indians, said Groenewald.

“But the largest economically active group in the Western Cape are coloureds. They are 53% of the population. That means about a million coloureds will be denied jobs,” said Groenewald.

Senior Counsel Martin Brassey, Solidarity’s legal representative, yesterday interrogated Freddie Engelbrecht to explain how appointments were made at the department.

Engelbrecht is regional deputy commissioner at the provincial correctional services department. He said posts remained vacant at the department because only blacks would be allowed to fill them.

Engelbrecht who would be termed racially as coloured told the court that he was also “black during apartheid.” He argued that coloured persons were denied jobs.

“I also suffered under apartheid,” he said.

Engelbrecht was also involved in a legal battle against the correctional services department because he has been denied a job that he has previously also applied for.

“I have launched the case based on racial discrimination. It reminds me of apartheid… Appointments are clearly based on race and gender. I’m unhappy about it and taking it to court,” he said.

Advocate Marumo Moerane, representing the correctional services ministry, argued that quotas were needed to “redress apartheid.”

He said it wanted to correct laws that had placed “whites at the top, coloureds and Indians in the middle and blacks at the bottom of the food chain.”

“To achieve substantive equality you have to take all those factors into account,” said Moerane.

The matter continues in the Labour Court today (Thursday).


South Africa’s tourism growth increases 10%

Written by Yazeed Kamaldien

President Jacob Zuma was all smiles on his recent visit to Cape Town when he confirmed that foreign tourism increased by 10,2% last year, despite negative reports about South Africa.

Zuma was hosted by government’s SA Tourism, which markets the country globally and annually releases tourism statistics. The president said foreign tourists spent a total R76,4-billion last year and on average stayed in the country for 7,6 nights. A total 9,188,368 international tourists visited South Africa last year. The country’s tourism growth rate is double the global average of 4%.

“This phenomenal tourism growth is evidence that we are successfully setting ourselves apart in a competitive marketplace and that South Africa’s reputation as a friendly, welcoming, inspiring and unique tourism destination continues to grow,” said an upbeat Zuma.

“These figures give us confidence that we are making good progress in our efforts to grow tourism.”

The growth rate for tourists from beyond Africa was up 15,1% from 2011.

Europe remained the highest source of overseas tourists to South Africa. The UK continues to be SA’s biggest overseas tourism market; 438,023 tourists from that country traveled here last year.

The US is the second biggest overseas tourism market with 326,643 visitors in 2012. This was an increase of 13,6% from 2011. Germany was SA’s fourth largest tourism market with 266,333 visitors last year.

Tourists from BRICS nations were also growing, said Zuma. China has become SA’s fourth biggest overseas tourism market: 132,334 tourists visited last year. Indian tourists totaled 106,774 and Brazilians 78,376 last year.

“The BRICS summit held in Durban last month highlighted the economic potential that our affiliation with this bloc has for South Africa and the tourism industry is no exception. Tourist arrivals from BRICS countries accounted for 330,834 of our international tourists,” said Zuma.

He said that African tourists were also steadily visiting South Africa.

“Regional Africa remains the pillar of our tourism economy and we are happy to see that arrivals from the region have maintained a solid growth path we have become accustomed to. Africa’s importance to our tourism industry will continue to grow,” said Zuma.

He added: “But we cannot become complacent. More and more countries around the world are realising the opportunity that tourism presents for growing their economies and creating jobs.

“Our geographic position makes our fight for the global tourism share more difficult than most. As a tourism industry we have to remain committed to growing tourism. South Africans all have the power to be important tourism ambassadors.”

Thulani Nzima, chief executive of SA Tourism, said South Africans needed to promote the country more “instead of being negative about it.”

“The challenge is to get South Africans to be positive about their own country. We are forever so skeptical. We must love our country and ourselves more.”

South Africa’s black middle class is booming

Written by Yazeed Kamaldien

South Africa has a booming black middle class with an annual consumer power worth R400-billion, confirmed a research think-tank this week.

The Unilever Institute of Strategic Marketing, based at the University of Cape Town, said yesterday that its recent research project ‘4 Million and Rising’ would reveal other facts about this sector when it launches next month.

Its study “charts the development of South Africa’s black middle class.”

Unilever first conducted research on the country’s black middle class in 2004. It said since then this “market has more than doubled in size, growing by 250% from 1.7 million in 2004, to an estimated 4.2 million last year.”

“The latest research shows black middle class spending began pulling ahead of the white middle class in 2008. It has since skyrocketed to over R400-billion per annum,” said the institute.

It said the “white middle class has remained fairly stagnant over same period, with its adult population growing from 2.8-million in 2004 to 3-million in 2012.”

Unilever director, Professor John Simpson, said the recession has not held back the black middle class.

“It continues to rapidly expand and is more influential and powerful than ever before,” he said.

Simpson led the study and said this research would assist businesses and industry to improve services and goods to meet the market’s needs.

“That this market continues to grow and prosper is crucial to the health and future of the economy. The black middle class is helping create a vibrant and stable society by increasing South Africa’s skills base, deepening employment, and widening the tax net,” said Simpson.

“As this market has matured, it has become much more complex than marketers and advertisers have assumed. Marketers are not adjusting fast enough to meet the needs of this rapidly transforming market segment. This new order demands new strategic thinking from businesses and manufacturers; from how they both create and sell products, to the way they distribute and market.”

Researchers found that an estimated 95% of the black middle class own cell phones, compared to 64% in 2004. But 66% of those surveyed said it was getting a job has become harder, due in part to the global recession.

Simpson said this meant a new view among the black middle class that “it is no longer ‘bling’ at all costs.”

Unilever statistics indicate the survey respondents “reported curbing their spending and only using credit when something was absolutely essential.”

“Of those surveyed 80% reported they were now more cautious about spending, while 22% admitted they were struggling to manage their debt,” it said.

Simpson added though: “For many in the black middle class, cars still embody status and are perceived as ‘shorthand’ for social standing.” Brands remained an extension of identity for the black middle class.

Xolani Qubeka, national chief executive of the Black Business Council, said yesterday “it would make sense” that the black middle class was growing.

“The private and public sector is pushing for employment equity so there are more jobs for blacks. We see more and more young black people buying new cars. They also spend money on the retail sector,” he said.

Qubeka said businesses would take note of this growth because “they need to know who their customers are.” But he said the country needed to grow black entrepreneurs and not only black consumers.

“That is fundamental. Businesses will create employment,” said Qubeka.

The full research report will be released early next month.

PHOTOS: Sea Point Pavillion and swimming pool

As the last warm days leave us, Cape Town still offers sunshine and a chance to catch a swim before the winter cold sets in. The Sea Point Pavillion and swimming pool is a cosy spot to unwind and it also offers some breathtaking photos. It is located on the ocean front. These images are from a trip that way a few days ago. (All photos copyright of Yazeed Kamaldien.)


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