South Africa: We'll argue with our parents and play video games!

Earlier this week, President Thabo Mbeki proposed that an oath be recited by school children every day in a nation-building effort. Breaking News says that the Opposition Democratic Alliance Leader, Jack Bloom, had welcomed the effort saying…

“I welcome the invitation to dialogue made by President Thabo Mbeki that we should develop an oath to be recited by children in their morning school assemblies,” said Bloom.

Bloom. who called the matter for debate last year, suggested that the pledge contained phrases based on the preamble of the constitution: “We, the people of South Africa … heal the divisions of the past … united in our diversity … establish a society based on democratic values, social justice and fundamental human rights … improve the quality of life of all citizens.”

“It would be a powerful way to imprint the inspirational values of our constitution on the minds of young people,” he said.

The oath, pointed out by In The News…, reads as follows…

“We the youth of South Africa, recognising the injustices of our past, honour those who suffered and sacrificed for justice and freedom.”

“We will respect and protect the dignity of each person, and stand up for justice.”

“We sincerely declare that we shall uphold the rights and values of our Constitution and promise to act in accordance with the duties and responsibilities that flow from these rights.”

However, South African bloggers have another idea entirely. The renowned South African cartoonist, Zapiro, portrays the issue with a light touch.

Bloggers have expressed their resentment in other ways such as arbitrary user with his post “THE WHOLE F-ING POINT OF THE STRUGGLE WAS THAT OUR KIDS COULD GROW UP WATCHING DSTV (cable TV network) INSTEAD OF GETTING SHOT IN THE FACE IN SHARPVILLE!”

His post reads…

You have to say it and try and sound like a 13 year old:

“It’s a democratic country and you can’t make me to do it!”

I imagine that would have been my response to my teachers if I was being forced to say an oath every day in school.

And ironically I would have been right… I would have been zit faced and snot nosed, but I would have been absolutely, categorically, right! In a democratic state you can not force anyone to recite a statement of beliefs, especially in the form of a promise to that state, against their will.

Synaptoman feels the same way with this post “The oaf of allegiance”:

Now this is all very dandy, but I have some major issues with the whole concept of hundreds of thousands of children standing up every day, hands on heart, reciting some meaningless (to them) mumbo-jumbo. A little bit too much like something our friend Mao would have liked.
And then, I also have a major problem with the wording of this oath. Children (PLEASE don’t call them learners, for f*ck sake) at school at the moment are aged between 5 and 18 (or 25 depending on the school). This means that they were born between 1990 and 2003. They had absolutely nothing to do with the so-called “injustices” of the past, and I see no reason why they should “recognise the injustices of the past”.

I am 1/8 German. Does this mean that I am somehow (even remotely) responsible for the so-called (hang, I couldn’t resist that) Holocaust? Of course not, and so too are our children completely innocent in respect of South Africa’s past.

Alternative versions of the oath have also been proposed by bloggers such as one by TABANSI-OKICIYAPI:

“We, the CHILDREN THE FUTURE OF SOUTH AFRICA believes in freedom and justice without corruption from our leaders. We want to believe that we have a FARE Democratic Government free of crime and violence . We want to believe that there are homes and employment for each and every family. We want to believe that Education IS FREE so we can be the AMBASSADORS OF SOUTH AFRICA. We want to believe that we as CHILDREN OF SOUTH AFRICA are respected by our parents and teachers and not abused.

We want to believe that we can uphold the rights and values of our constitution as long as those in authority remember what is written in the constitution. Uphold to respect my place in society, MY SAFETY, MY EDUCATION, MY HEALTH AND WELFARE as a CHILD AND YOUTH in this country South Africa.

“We sincerely declare that we shall uphold the rights and values of our constitution, and promise to act in accordance with the duties and responsibilities that flow from these rights AS LONG AS OUR GOVERNEMENT, COUNCIL, TEACHERS AND OTHER ADULTS show us the respect and DO NOT PARTICIPATE IN corruption,voilance and abuse, then we as children pleadge to learn from example which we are doing at present.

…and a more humorous version was put forward by arbitrary user

“We the youth of South Africa, recognising the hotness of Jessica Biel, honour those heroes who shape our porous minds like Tony Hawk, Steve Jobs and Natalie Portman”

“We promise to argue with our parents about music, play video games and score chicks”

“We sincerely declare that we shall eat Nandos, Bunk School, Watch too much TV, Sneak our dad’s alcohol out of the house on a Friday night, Spend way too much time on facebook, Tell our dad’s we love them occasionally, Try our best not to be fat asses and most of all, always be kief (means “cool”) to other people.”

Now that’s an oath… These are kids. The injustices of their past is that yesterday the DSTV wasn’t working.

The merits of instilling an oath in schools is very debatable, however if the intention really is nation-building, should not many other “real” aspects of service delivery and and nation-building be implemented along with this “oath”? Or is the South African government grasping at straws in order to sort out a very big structural mess of its education system as seen in Zapiro's cartoon?

The debate carries on in the blogosphere and elsewhere.

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