SOUTH AFRICAN BUZZ: Racism goes viral

Racist tweets and messages really went viral on social media, causing one newspaper to write about “a racism storm raging across the country this week.”

Cape Town, South Africa (photo credit: REUTERS)
Cape Town, South Africa
(photo credit: REUTERS)
For me it started with an email from the South African Jewish Board of Deputies telling of an employee of the Gauteng Province Sports, Arts, Culture and Recreation Department, a black man, who had posted on Facebook as follows (and pardon the inaccurate use of English): “I want to cleans [sic] this country of all white people and we must act as Hitler did to the Jews. White people in South Africa deserve to be hacked and killed like Jews. U have the same venom moss [sic]. Look at Palestine. Noo [sic] you must be bushed alive and skinned and your off springs used as garden fertilizer.”
The board wanted to verify that he was indeed employed by the department, and then ensure that “appropriate action was taken.” It also made a formal complaint to the SA Human Rights Commission.
Just coincidentally, racist tweets flew over South Africa starting around January 3. A Natal estate agent surnamed sparrow tweeted about black beach goers on New Year’s Day (an estimated 100,000) and said that “they behaved like monkeys.” People demanded that a criminal case be opened against her. She had to move to a safe house. Then a white economist with a leading bank tweeted, “25 years after Apartheid ended, victims are increasing along with a sense of entitlement and hatred towards minorities.” He was suspended by the bank. A white talk show host tweeted, “people don’t understand free speech,” for which he was castigated and dropped as a judge on a popular TV talent show.
Then a white TV news reader mocked the minister of education for mispronouncing the word “epitome,” and in turn mispronounced her name. He was sacked.
The head of the Gauteng Province government department where the man who had written with hatred about the Jews was employed, reacted to “the hateful post in a serious light. Our key mandate is nation building and social cohesion.” They were instituting an internal process to address the matter.
After that, racist tweets and messages really went viral on social media, causing one newspaper to write about “a racism storm raging across the country this week.”
There the matter rests.
Two school systems in one country
Although Apartheid officially ended in 1992 in South Africa, and the country has been led by black-dominated African National Congress since the election of 1994, looking at the school systems here one could be excused for failing to see a great difference.
There are the government schools with their exams, and the private schools where students take the IEB (Independent Examinations Board) examinations.
The latter are very expensive and mostly dominated by white children.
Among the innovations that the government brought in were to call all pupils “learners,” for reasons difficult to fathom. Teacher training colleges were closed down. The quality of teaching has been criticized for hurting the learners.
School Leaving Exams (matriculation) are held towards the end of the year and the results released in the last week of December (IEB) and the first week in January (government).
The results of the government schools were, as expected, not that good, although spokespeople were upbeat and insisted that there was an improvement over 2014 and gave figures and percentages to press their point. They did give reasons for the results not being better, however. There was, what were called “progressed” learners. These were those who did not or could not pass into the final years but they were still passed into those classes. There were 65,000 of them. Some number of them did pass, however.
A phenomenon which surfaced recently was “group copying.” Markers noticed that in some schools similar mistakes occurred in many papers, which meant that obviously answers had been given to the examinees and, in some cases, wrong answers.
These schools were being investigated and their results held back.
There was disquiet about the standard of the pass marks and it was said that children exiting the school system were without the necessary skills and standards to enter tertiary education or the workplace where already there is massive unemployment and lack of jobs.
A teacher at a government school told me that many pupils are simply not interested in learning.
They get no back-up from their parents or are from broken homes. The situation is impossible.
By contrast, most of the private schools showed pass rates above 98 percent. In Johannesburg, Jewish schools (King David Linksfield and King David Victory Park) had 100% pass rates. Yeshiva College also had 100% pass. Torah Academy and Torah Academy Girls High School had excellent results. There are Jewish day schools in Pretoria, Cape Town and Durban, and they also had wonderful pass rates. Distinctions abounded like confetti at all the Jewish schools.
In addition, other private independent schools did well. A Greek school and other English-dominated schools also celebrated top results and distinctions.
To comment about the results of Jewish students: Jews form less than 1% of the population of South Africa, and their children consistently do extremely well at school. Recently the Johannesburg Sunday Times published a “Rich List” of the wealthiest 225 South Africans according to the listed shares that they owned. Forty-seven of them were Jewish, a fair percentage. However, many wealthy Jews were not taken into account in this survey.
So brilliant children grow into professionals and also brilliant businessmen. What does this tell us?
Tel Aviv and Israel
Recently when I was in Tel Aviv I went to have breakfast at a restaurant on Rothschild Boulevard.
The young waiter handed me a menu. I wanted scrambled eggs and looking at the menu it offered six choices. Plain, cheese, tomatoes, onions, French fries and bacon. I pointed to the bacon and said to the waiter, “Here I am in Israel and I am being offered pork! How is this?” He looked at me and said, “This is Tel Aviv, and not Israel!”