South Africa — Lauren Steele The Right to Educate(tion):

Posted: February 4, 2013 in South Africa

South Africa — Lauren Steele

The Right to Educate(tion): South African Teachers Strike Mirrors Chicago 2012 5/6/13





Remember back in 2012 (it’s really not that long ago..) when schools across the Chicagoland area closed down due to teacher union striking? On April 24 in South Africa, the South African Democratic Teacher’s Union (SADTU), called its members to striking action against “the unilateral withdrawal of collective bargaining agreements by the Department of Basic Education” ( In their official statement, SADTU explained in depth their reasoning for striking:

“We are concerned that the unwillingness and inability by the Department of Basic Education to restore the collective bargaining agreements is already taking a toll on our public education system. We are concerned that SADTU’s Work-to-Rule campaign has crippled the right to education for the working class child, particularly in townships and rural areas.  The continuation of this campaign will have an adverse impact on our students in primary and secondary schools. Government has a responsibility to act soon by reinstating and implementing all collective bargaining agreements. We will not keep mum when our workers’ hard won-right to collective bargaining is being trampled upon by employers.” SADTU demanded that salaries should be directly tied to and increased in conjunction with matric exam markers. This varies greatly from the complaints of the striking midwesterners.

This is very interesting when looking at the reasoning behind the Chicago strikes of 2012, which main striking points were the length of the school day, objecting to teacher evaluations being tied to performance and fretting about potential job losses (Ed Payne, CNN.

In both instances, schools were forced to shut down as teachers did not show up for work. In both instances, teachers were successful in meeting some of their objectives. In Chicago, an agreement was met that strips out a merit pay program that would have been tied to increased emphasis on student test scores. That emphasis remains in the contract — it’s mandated by state law — but scores will count for a lower percentage of teacher evaluations. The district had wanted scores to count for as much as 45% of evaluations. It will count for no more than 30%, according to the deal ( According to an article published today in South Africa, SADTU on Monday suspended all protest action after Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga agreed to meet a host of its demands. In a joint announcement, the minister undertook to support an urgent initiative to achieve parity in the public service, and to appoint a task team to deal with the union’s complaint about a failure to increase the salaries of matric exam markers. Motshekga also bowed to the union’s demands for an investigation into allegations against the director general of education, Bobby Soobrayan (

Education is one of the most important factors in a society’s infrastructure that ensures its success. Whenever an educational system is questioned, the success of that nation is questioned. What importance do you think education holds in the success of developing, as well as first-world nations? How can we ensure that Unions and the government act in the effective ways for which they were created?


South Africa News Roundup: Zimbabwe Loans According to Citizens 5/5/13

The South African government recently agreed to loan Zimbabwe R900-million to aid in their upcoming elections. On the surface level, one might think that this is a positive step in the unity of African countries and the actions of South Africa to aid in Zimbabwe’s rise. However, this is not the case. Many South Africans are against the loan, due to Zimbabwe’s murky economical decisions and conduct. Just as we have asked time and time again in class, “How can developing countries truly be sustainably aided?” Is this loan just a temporary fix, with no lasting results? Or can it help Zimbabwe construct a foundation and employ enough structure to help them be truly successful? Should more powerful countries provide monetary aid such as this?

A Poll given on African news source,
Should we be loaning Zimbabwe R900-million for their elections?

YES 10% (8 votes)

NO 90% (71 votes)Total votes: 79

Here are some very interesting comments (The first one made by a citizen of Zimbabwe, the second made by a South African citizen), that demonstrate the opinions of the people, instead of the governments.

Chen Hove· 1 week ago Very soon we will have no country. It will be owned by those who lend us money…South Africa, Angola, Botswana, Zambia(maize), etc. Arrogant South Africans once told me in my face that ‘Zimbabwe is a province of South Africa.’ And they treat us like that because of our leader’s greed and irresponsibility. That is why the Zumas of this world are not too keen to solve Zim’s problems since we have now become South Africa’s consumers. Zuma’s industrial bosses like it the way it is, seeing Zimbabwean industry collapse to a point where we will produce nothing of our own. Meanwhile, our diamonds are in private pockets while we burden our treasury with borrowed promissory notes. It’s not long before we borrow money from Mozambique and Tanzania. I have never seen a country which is so rich, but at the same time so extremely poverty-stricken like our country.

Tax Them· 1 week ago Beggars shall not be choosers! There is no free lunch! There no loans without terms and conditions. There are no grants either. Why give grants to a country with rich mineral resources including diamonds? Zanu pf should surrender their diamond loot to Treasury to finance these elections. All diamond mining firms must be taxed to raise these funds for elections. Period!

Half the Sky: A More Critical Look 4/18/13

During this portion of the semester while we take a look women’s rights, we can also look at the representation Western citizens get of third world and developing countries. As “the richest and most influential nation in the world,” the United States’ media is a barrage of appeals to you and I to donate here, send a check there or buy this product to benefit these victims half a world away. It has gotten to the point where even Hollywood is taking up the opportunity to capitalize on charity and awareness movements.

The example of Professor Dingo’s critical look at the documentary style film for “Half the Sky,” which features American celebrity Olivia Wilde is a facet to this problem that we need to look into. Upon initially watching this film and reading this book, I feel my heartstrings getting pulled. This emotional bias appeal is not something that I was aware of while sitting at my kitchen table, getting lost in the narrative testimonials. My heart was hurting for these women. There was probably no way in that moment that someone could have convinced me that NGO’s and the initiative that “Half the Sky” is taking was anything less than noble and spotless. However, that changed when we took a step back today in class and looked into “Half the Sky” with a more critical eye.

The documentary for “Half the Sky” has many flaws–from it’s presentation of women to the foundation of it’s mission. On the surface level, we can fault the documentary for:

1. Not clarifying what work stars like Olivia Wilde are REALLY doing in countries like Kenya.

2. Focusing on Olivia Wilde, her career and her opinions.

3. No Kenyan women were interviewed.

4. No men were present in the clip.

5. Nairobi is a thriving urban area, but we were only shown “slum-like” areas, with little technology.

6. Stereotypical representations of Kenyans were used–such as, showing them their picture after it was taken on the camera.

7. We are only shown impoverished and victimized women–what about thriving women?

8. The film was cinematographic, instead of informative.

Now that I have been included in a discussion that brings all of this to light, I can read the book and look at this situation from a completely different vantage point. It is easy to appeal to emotions and convince someone to go buy a pair of Tom’s shoes so that a child in Kenya can be given a pair of shoes. But when you explain that sending a pair of shoes only disadvantages the economy and infrastructure of that child’s village, you realize that while the pair of Tom’s shoes is a quick fix, it will not bring lasting change for that child. Buying that child a pair of shoes from the local Kenyan shoe-maker or shoe store and supporting their economy while helping the child with a basic need is the best option.

Infrastructure is what developing countries need, not pity. If we make it a mission to provide support instead of sympathy, maybe then our global economy can experience real growth.

This proves that sometimes we need to use our heart and our head to make a real change happen.

Women’s Rights: The Economist, Reeva Steenkamp, and Where South Africa Stands 4/15/13

According to an article from The Economist from October 2010, South Africa was ranked fourth out of 53 African countries for its record on women’s rights. It comes in sixth–out of 134 countries, on the World Economic Forum’s “gender gap index.” Also, on the UNDP’s “gender empowerment measure” it does well, being placed 26th out of 182 countries. In the South African Constitution, which was penned in 1996, non-sexism is equally ranked with non-racialism. Laws regarding women’s rights have been put into practice by the dozens: legalizing abortion, giving women equal power in marriage, cracking down on domestic violence, criminalising sexual harassment at work, banning all gender discrimination and providing women of any skin colour with the same degree of affirmative action in education, employment and politics as blacks, coloureds (people of mixed race) and Indians.

This all looks great on paper. It is impressive actually. But what about what is being practiced? That article was published in 2010, and now, three short years later, South Africa is facing a monstrous women’s rights controversy in the murder of Reeva Steenkamp, the girlfriend of South African superstar athlete Oscar Pistorius. Steenkamp was a celebrity in her own right–a model, actress and activist for violence against women. Merely hours before she died, Steenkamp tweeted:


She also posted an illustration of domestic violence on Instagram and wrote: “I woke up in a happy safe home this morning. Not everyone did. Speak out against the rape of individuals in SA.” Who would have ever guessed that a woman who was such a strong advocate for women’s rights and independence would fall victim herself? In the aftermath of her shooting, accusations have come to light that domestic disturbances had occurred between Steenkamp and Pistorius during their relationship. If police had been notified of these possible violent acts, why wasn’t more done as a precaution so her murder could have been prevented?

These are the questions that envelop each and every case of violence against women. In my opinion, it doesn’t matter how many laws you have in place or how many organizations you have that ensure gender equality. What matters is that each and every citizen is safe.

A Conversation: The Tallberg Foundation, “Voices From Africa” and Professor Ton Stam 3/19/13

Click Here to watch the Tallberg Foundation video!


When you think of South Africa, your mind probably does not jump right to Copenhagen in the next step of your thought process, does it? However, as this class continues down the road of this semester–we are learning to make the connections and be a little more familiar with the fact that they exist. Cape Town and Copenhagen might have more in common then we might initially realize. During Professor Ton Stam’s presentation during our March 19 class, I was pleasantly able to make a connection when he shared that transportation in the Netherlands is heavily made up of public systems and bicycles–which is also the case in South Africa. Neither country’s transportation system consists primarily of personal automobiles. Suddenly, with one brief mention of culture from Professor Stam, I was able to make a global connection to South Africa. Then, he went on to share that in South Africa, everyone is on a cellphone–no one uses land lines. This makes for much cheaper technology when compared to the United States, and for a tough global market for competition in the area of technology. I shouldn’t be surprised but I am.

Then, the serendipity continued. When I went into the Tallberg Foundation website to peruse material that they might have regarding South Africa, the first video I found covered a meeting between forty leaders from the areas of science, culture, business, civil society and politics that was held over the course of two days in Cape Town. The topic of the conversation? None other than, “Africa and Copenhagen– The Solutions We Need.”

Historically, Europe and Africa’s relationship runs deep. European colonization of Africa bound the two continents together hundreds of years ago. Mirrors in culture and economy should not be a surprise. However, South Africa was colonized by Britain, not the Netherlands. And the Netherlands had been colonized by the French and the Germans, according to Professor Stam. So the influences on both countries are coming from everywhere historically–and they are still bound by the fact that both the Netherlands and South Africa are not powerful, wealthy countries.

The Tallberg Foundation conversation allowed for these leaders from these countries, such as Langa Zita of the South African Parliament and Swedish Parliament members Anders Wijkman, as well as others, to discuss three key challenges. These challenges were:

1. How can the local realities reach the global negotiation. (I.e., the use of cheap technology in South Africa/Netherlands as opposed to the pricier technology in the US)

2. How can environment, development and finance be integrated into policies and strategies (Giving government responsibility to employ global regulations…this goes way back to Zakaria’s text.)

3. How can values and behaviors be changed. (This ties into our class discussions on our role and responsibilities as individuals in this global society).

The lesson that I learned from all of this is that just like our culture, our society and our economy becoming more globalized through endeavors such as the Tallberg Foundation “Africa and Copenhagen–the Solutions We Need” conversation, our everyday lives are also becoming more globalized–as demonstrated through our class discussion with Professor Stam.

Environmentalism, Humanitarian Efforts and South Africa 2/28/1

As early as the introduction of  “The Post-American World,” Fareed Zakaria stresses the need for governments to unite globally in efforts that will harbor cooperation on a scale never before seen to ensure timely action in the face of climate change. He raises the issue that as a global government, we must expand and strengthen laws addressing economics, energy and climate control. If we do not, he warns of crises that will be unavoidable and detrimental to our world.

Professor Clarence’s presentation on the cross-cultural understandings of climate change reinforced the need for global cooperation within the international community. In the Kyoto Protocol, we see the proof of international democracy present in the UN. The United States no longer has a hold as a bully in the global community. The clash between power and democracy is at a turning tide. So what can we do as individuals until higher government action and regulation has taken hold?

An article from The Oklahoma Daily published on February 6, talked about Oklahoma University students that are volunteering abroad in countries such as Costa Rica, Thailand and South Africa through the International Student Volunteers program. The students work on sustainable and green projects such as monitoring endangered species as well as working with communities on composting and trash collection methods.

These humanitarian efforts are not uncommon, but we must realize that they are happening everywhere on a small scale. Small scales will start adding up to large scales, and hopefully, governments will take notes from the everyday humanitarian efforts of individuals. This is what it will take to gain any ground on the climate crisis that we are facing, according to Zakaria. South Africa is taking just as firm a stance on stopping climate change as anyone, and the US is falling behind. Here is a link to South Africa’s government-funded environmentalist website.  One really interesting article even reveals that since October 2012, South Africa has had a project running called “Pickitup Trash to Treasure,” that has helped residents from Soweto, Diepsloot, Johannesbur, Waterval and Zondi ares accumulate 1107 tons of recyclable material and has created 100+ permanent jobs. The service reaches over 950,000 households just in Johannesburg. That is amazing and I argue that we have nothing comparable to that in the US. It creates an opportunity for sustainability in the environment and the job market. I think it is something that more countries could model.

When I think about the Pickitup effort in South Africa, it makes me want to do more here. I already walk to and from school everyday, eat vegetarian during the school week and practice many sustainable methods. But what else can we do? It starts with the individual, and ends with the governments.

Nationalism, Westernization and Human Rights: South Africa’s Take 2/14/13

“For every country–from Russia and China to South Africa and India–its most important relationship in the world has been the relationship with the United States.”  -Fareed Zakaria, The Post-American World

That excerpt speaks volumes to South Africa’s stance on Westernization. For so long, the United States has been the powerhouse that so many developing countries have sought out to lift them into first-world status. If you look into South Africa’s history–the apartheid–Nelson Mandela’s crusade to ending cultural boundaries in his country, were modeled after American Civil Rights, revolution, and democratic values. Since, South Africa has strived to develop a democratically elected government style. However, they have been plagued by corrupt government officials and the threat of a one-party rule.

Even things as simple as everyday dress in South Africa is westernized.


This is the August edition of Marie Claire: South Africa. (Courtesy of


This is the August edition of Marie Claire: United States. (Courtesy of

Very similar aren’t they?

This may seem trivial when compared to a heavy subject such as human rights, but similarities segue there as well. The South African Human Rights Commission was established in 1995, and is protected under the South African Constitution (another similarity!). lays out the Bill of Rights in the Constitution on their webpage. It reads as follows:

The mandate of the Commission as contained in Section 184 of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, Act 108 of 1996 is as follows:
1. The South African Human Rights Commission must –
   a) promote respect for human rights and a culture of human rights;
   b) promote the protection, development and attainment of human rights; and
   c) monitor and assess the observance of human rights in the Republic.

2. The Commission has the powers, as regulated by the national legislation, necessary to perform its functions, including the power – 

  a) investigate and report on the observance of human rights;
   b) take steps and secure appropriate redress where human rights have been
   c) carry out research; and 
   d) educate.

3. Each year, the Commission must require relevant organs of
    state to provide the Commission with information on the measures that they have taken
    towards the realisation of the rights in the Bill of Rights concerning housing, health
    care, food, water, social security,education and the environment.

4. The Commission has the additional powers and functions
    prescribed by national legislation.

These protections of the Human Rights Commission demonstrate South Africa’s interest in sustaining and protecting human rights in a continent splattered with stains regarding human rights.
In section 7 of the South African Bill of Rights, you can see hints of American values expressed in our Bill of Rights like equality and liberty. It reads:
This Bill of Rights is a cornerstone of democracy in South Africa. It enshrines the rights of all people in our country and affirms the democratic values of human dignity, equality and freedom.

It is undeniable, from Zakaria’s text to the actual governing legislative works of South Africa, that Western culture, specifically American culture, as well as values, have influenced South Africa.

History & Economy of South Africa: The Daily Maverick 2/7/13

This week I was able to find articles through a popular South AFrican newspaper that tied together pieces of the country’s history, along with the current state of the economy and need for reform. South Africa’s social and economy status has been on the decline in recent years–as was discussed in the previous blog entry.  In an excerpt from the second article linked in this entry, we are able to see an outline of the ANC’s goals for South Africa within the next 5 years.

While the National Development Plan, adopted in its entirety in Mangaung, will be the guiding light for long-term planning in government, the ANC has spelt out in its economic transformation resolutions some immediate interventions to attempt to halt further stagnation of the economy and to stimulate development and growth.

The ANC says it wants to make government “a more capable and effective state, with the technical and political capacity to lead development and transform the economy”. It therefore wants “bold forms of state intervention”, which include:

  • Financial regulation and control, including through a state owned bank.
  • Progressive and redistributive taxation
  • Wage and income policies that promote decent work, growth and address poverty and inequality.
  • Progressive competition policies that promote growth and employment, and address poverty and inequality.
  • A well-resourced state-led industrial and trade policy.
  • Increased state ownership in strategic sectors, where deemed appropriate on the balance of evidence, and the more effective use of state-owned enterprises.

And while reading Zakaria’s text, it seems that all of these goals are within grasp. As stated on page 3 in “The Post American World,” one of  Antoine van Agtmael’s, the fund manager who coined the term “emerging markets”, top 25 companies to be the next great multinational companies is in South Africa.

South Africa was one of the first 51 original countries in the United Nations. It has worked closely with the UN and developed a program called the United Nations Development Assistance Framework. According to the United nations website itself, (, the UNDAF has outlined principles to which it adheres. Here is an excerpt from the website.

The new UN Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF) 2007-2010 defines areas of development cooperation between the Government of South Africa and the UN. For the first time, the UNDAF in South Africa was developed using the key principles of the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness and Country Ownership.

The Guiding Principles behind the UNDAF are:

  1. The UN reform process and the mandate for system-wide coherence;
  2. The targets for the fulfillment of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs);
  3. National ownership of country programming and alignment with national development priorities;
  4. Adherence to UN pro-poor agenda and support to develop the capacity for good governance.

The comprehensive approach to the UNDAF process ensures that it is aligned with SouthAfrica’s national plans such as the Vision 2014, the National Plan of Action and Government’s Corporate Governance System. In this context, the outcomes of the UNDAF 2007-2010 are expected to ensure that:

  1. Democracy, good governance and administration are strengthened;
  2. Government and its social partners are supported to ensure accelerated economic growth and development for the benefit of all;
  3. National and sub-regional institutions are strengthened to consolidate the African agenda, promote global governance and South-South cooperation;
  4. Government’s efforts to promote justice, peace, safety and security are strengthened;
  5. Programmes and measures to eradicate poverty are intensified.

Industry and History in One– South African newspaper “The Daily Maverick,” inspects the history of mining as a historically crucial piece of the South African economy and its future as “sustainable development,” points the industry towards a new transition.

Another “The Daily Maverick” article. This one explores the African National Congress’s (ANC) 53rd annual conference and the focus that was put on a “second transitional stage” for South Africa, which would focus on stimulating the economy and shaping “social transformation.”

American Eyes on South Africa: The Economist  2/3/13

If you are a consumer of serious American media, The Economist is probably on your radar. In the recent past, as recent as October, the American magazine’s cover featured a headline that read, “Cry, the beloved country: South Africa’s sad decline,” accompanied by a photo of South Africans in a hazy mist, protesting with umbrellas, canes and sticks hoisted high in the air and forlorn looks on their faces.

Traditionally, and unfortunately, this is the portrayal of Africa that is so often presented in our American culture through our media outlets. A continent of war, unrest, poverty and instability. South Africa however, was the exception. With national heroes such as Nelson Mandela ending apartheid, a stable government, a healthy economy and even a hold in the global tourism industry, South Africa was the shining example of what all African countries could be. So why are we now seeing a negative picture painted in one of our country’s most popular magazines?

Because we have only been seeing what we wanted to see. The years of successful revolution passed long ago. Most Americans let South Africa’s story end happily in their minds, with thoughts of peace and Nelson Mandela. However, the story is far from over, whether we choose to read it or not. Following Mr. Mandela’s govern, Thabo Mbeki took office, and according to the article in The Economist on p. 12, he denied the link between HIV and AIDS, costing millions of lives, as well as letting racial struggles back into the country. Then he was proceeded by Kgalema Motlanthe, and then Jacob Zuma, who catered to corruption. The article states that he has allowed a rich black elitist population of squander economic competitiveness and is leading to a de facto one-party state.

So while South Africa may be in decline more than 20 years after the apartheid, many Americans would never know. They would also not know that Nigeria is on a fast incline. China is pouring money into modernizing Africa in return for natural resources, and the continent as a whole is on the way up. But not South Africa. It is imperative that our media becomes more globalized, and this Economist article proves it. We must be educated on the current states of countries around the world, and cannot expect for the world to only care about us.

Howzit! An Introduction to South Africa! 1/27/13

When I choose South Africa as my area of study for this semester, I knew I would be delving into a rich culture and a dramatic history. To most of the world, South Africa is the poster child of success for Africa, leading the way in terms of civil peace, stable governments and a healthy economy. However, I know there is much more than meets the eye, and I am excited to learn! I even included my first little nugget of acquired knowledge in the title of this inaugural post, “Howzit,” which is the commonplace South African greeting, which is used as our American,”What’s up?” or, “How are you?” would be used.

I also thought it would be nice to see a few statistics on the basics of South Africa. Thanks to, they are handily found all on one webpage!

Flag Coat of arms
Anthem: National anthem of South Africa
Capital Pretoria (executive)
Bloemfontein (judicial)
Cape Town (legislative)
LARGEST Johannesburg (2006)[2]
Ethnic groups 79.2% Black African
8.9% Coloured
8.9% White
2.5% Indian / Asian
0.5% Other[4]:21
DEMONYM South African
GOVERNMENT Constitutionalparliamentary republic
 – President Jacob Zuma
 – Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe
 – NCOP Chairman M. J. Mahlangu
 – National Assembly Speaker Max Sisulu
 – Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng
 – Upper house National Council of Provinces
 – Lower house National Assembly
 – Union 31 May 1910
 – Statute of Westminster 11 December 1931
 – Republic 31 May 1961
 – Total 1,221,037 km2 (25th)
471,443 sq mi
 – Water (%) Negligible
 – 2011 census 51,770,560[4]:18
 – Density 42.4/km2 (169th)
109.8/sq mi
GDP (PPP) 2012 estimate
 – Total $578.640 billion[5]
 – Per capita $11,302[5] (105[6])
GDP (nominal) 2012 estimate
 – Total $390.919 billion[5]
 – Per capita $7,635[5]
Gini (2009) 63.1[7] (high / 2nd)
HDI (2011) 0.619 Increase (medium / 123rd)
CURRENCY South African rand (ZAR)

But these simple stats don’t really give us much of the personality that sets South Africa’s culture apart from the United States of America. Instead of making a large compare/contrast bore-fest, I found this really interesting story which demonstrates our differences perfectly.

Sixto Rodriguez was an American musician who just never struck it big in the United States. But little did he know, he had a huge cult following in South Africa during the Apartheid. His music was the soundtrack to South Africa’s journey to freedom. He found out 30 years later about his celebrity status and held a concert in Cape Town. His music didn’t strike a chord in America but the South African people and culture embraced it. Here is the full NPR story!



  1. Joan Jockel says:

    I found your post on American’s views of South Africa very sobering. I am in fact, pretty much guilty as charged. As you suggested, I tend to think of the country as having had “a happy ending” and not having to deal with many of the hardships other African nations face (such as extreme poverty and the AIDS epidemic). Your post encouraged me to do a little reading. I found that, in addition to the issues you referenced, South Africa has a significant problem with violence towards women and the LGTB community. Thank you for correcting my assumptions and giving me a better perspective.

  2. BRITT says:

    The post on Westernization was a bit hard to follow. I like the visuals of the magazine covers portraying a sense of Westernization in fashion, but it was hard to follow your connection from the magazine covers, to the bill of rights. :/

  3. dwalsh15 says:

    I disagree, Britt. The post wasn’t connecting their fashion sense to the bill of rights, but rather those were two examples in their culture that show strong Western influence. They dress like us, and they also emulated their legislation from ours.

    I thought it was interesting, but I’m still wondering why does South Africa have such a strong Western influence, especially because very few places in Africa are like that. I understand the British settled there, but they settled everywhere–India, Egypt, etc.–so why did South Africa inherit these Western roots so much more than those places?

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