The South African political system does not take education seriously. Education has lost its value as an essential feature of political leadership. It is neither a requirement of our Parliament nor a consideration of the leadership in the political parties.
The political environment has become so vulgar that educated people are made to wrestle with the miserables of the land for leadership.
To be educated, let alone opinionated and stern – the things we gain from education – are not welcome in our politics. You almost need to be sycophantic, vulgar and naughty in order to survive.
Thus we see the educated showing no interest, leaving the political stage under the control of fools.
Our politics have lost their altruistic value. Very few people serve them. Nor is our political space a sanctuary of virtues; By all accounts, it has become a refuge for fugitives.
However, there was a time in our history when people went into politics for the sake of ideals – a status high enough to die for. Interestingly, this is the time when education determined the personality of political leadership.
Truth be told, leaders of the past valued knowledge and valued the empowering nature of education. In fact, you learn a lot more from a formal education than from reading, writing, counting, or getting a degree.
In his treatise on education, Emil, Philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau emphasizes the importance of education in our lives: “Plants are shaped by cultivation, and man by education… We are born weak, we need strength. We are born completely destitute, we need help;
In fact, you have to water the plants, add compost, remove weeds, and apply pesticides to protect them from insects if you want to get a good harvest. Humans also need to nurture their minds to reach their full potential; And formal education is our best bet.
We go through formal education to imbibe knowledge and develop our cognitive abilities. Formal education provides us with the tools and methods of analysis. It helps us learn social norms and skills to enhance relationships. Through education, we acquire the skills to earn a living.
While it is true that some leaders are born, many leaders are made through education. This is exactly why education is the hallmark of leadership.
Determine education priorities
From the founding fathers of liberation movements until the dawn of our democracy, education has been a serious consideration in political leadership. Then the leaders went to the school to sharpen their minds and hone their leadership skills.
A cursory survey of the liberation movements, from the African National Congress to the Pan-African Congress (PAC) and the Azanese People’s Organization (Azabu), would reveal that the men and women who led these organizations were known.
Not only did they acquire qualifications, but they set up schools and institutes to give others the opportunity to learn. Some even founded newspapers and wrote prolifically to educate their fellow countrymen. They understood that the pen can be mightier than the sword.
Both in exile and on Robben Island, the liberation movement encouraged its members to pursue and acquire formal education.
Many of those sentenced on Robben Island came out with official certificates. Nelson Mandela, for example, earned his bachelor’s degree from Unisa while on Robben Island. Former Deputy Chief Justice Dekjang Museneki went to Robben Island without a college degree and earned a degree.
However, there were exceptions such as Jacob Zuma, who focused on mastering it “Murabharav” skills while others are studying.
Learn to drive
The ANC in exile was very clear about the role of education in political leadership and in raising political awareness. Young men who showed a flair for learning and aptitude for leadership were sent to various universities to prepare them for future leadership responsibilities.
The ANC was so serious about education that it set up the Solomon Mahlangu Freedom College (Somafco) in Tanzania to help young men who left South Africa to join the Struggle to pursue their education. Yes, they believed that young men “can learn and fight at the same time.”
The importance of education was also recognized among those who exterminated apartheid and those who upheld the status quo. is reading Super Africaners: Inside the Afrikaner Brotherhood Written by Ivor Wilkins and Hans Strydom, and you will see that NDP educational qualifications prevail.
In the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) too, war was second only to education as a condition of leadership.
Unfortunately, today education is no longer a criterion for leadership. Educational qualifications and intellectual prowess no longer block your path to leadership.
The scandal now appears to be what defines the character of South Africa’s political leadership. The bigger the scandal, the more likely he is to become president.
Paul Mashatile has no reason to worry about reports of the “unveiling of Mashatile” in the media. His scandals would more than anything else secure him the highest office in the Union Buildings rather than his educational achievements. This is how our policy works.
While the EFF should be commended for being the only party at the moment that seems to encourage its leaders to obtain a formal education, the fact that its leadership has become synonymous with corruption shows once again that scandal has become the hallmark of political leadership.
how do we get there?
Live out of politics
There are two reasons why we got here. The first is what the famous sociologist, Max Weber, described in his article on Politics as a profession.
Weber wrote: “He who lives ‘for’ politics makes politics his life … He who seeks to make politics a permanent source of income lives ‘apart’ from politics.”
Politics in South Africa is a thriving profession. The number of registered political parties – which now number in the hundreds – attests to this. The majority of our politicians live outside of politics. Many of them have no careers outside of politics. Many also have no qualifications.
The lack of educational requirements for our parliament, assemblies, assemblies and leadership in political parties has made our political scene the only place where the uneducated and destitute find refuge. As a result, politics is the only profession in which a doctor grapples with a master’s degree in driving.
While the second reason doesn’t conflict with the first, it’s worth indulging in. It is a phenomenon called “precedent”.
Past forms and overlooks future behavior. Once set, it is very difficult to reverse a false precedent. It easily becomes part of the culture of an organization or a people.
The ANC’s decision to usher Jacob Zuma to the Union Buildings set a very bad precedent for South Africa. Not only did it open the door for scum to flourish in the ANC, it has emboldened the worst of us ever since.
After Zuma, the Union Buildings lost their prestige as a place to be occupied by the best of us. Since then, Tom, Dick and Harry have all believed that they deserve to be head of state.
Lacking an after-school qualification, John Steenhausen isn’t the only one feeling emboldened to stand on a podium and declare his ambitions to become South African President – even convicted bank robber Gayton Mackenzie fancies himself receiving top-secret reports from the Governor of the Reserve Bank.
The problem with precedents is that when you make a mistake, you also take away your right to criticize others who make the same mistakes. So despite its history as an organization that glorifies educated leaders, after Jacob Zuma, the ANC cannot criticize the DAP for installing John Steinhausen as its leader and presidential candidate.
Nor does the current DA leadership have the legitimacy to criticize the ANC for adorning its 10th-rate agent, Cabello Guamanda, with the chains of the City of Gold mayor.
The unfortunate message that all of these convey is that education does not matter in politics. However, politics affects all aspects of our lives.
However, does education really matter in political leadership?
This question has haunted the souls of London School of Economics professor Timothy Beasley and his colleagues for years. In their 2011 research paper titled, Do educated leaders matter? Beasley and his colleagues analyzed data on “more than a thousand political leaders between 1875 and 2004 to investigate whether having more educated leaders affects economic growth.”
Their study confirmed the existence of a relationship between the educational level of the leader and economic growth. It revealed that when an educated leader was replaced by a less educated leader, the economy declined and vice versa. The conclusion from this study is helpful – educated leaders matter and if you want economic growth, choose educated leaders.
What would it take to restore the value of education in our bodies politic? We need legislative reforms to achieve this. The reforms should specify the minimum educational requirements – at least a degree – for a person to be eligible to be a member of parliament, a provincial legislature or a municipal council. This would create a new precedent and oblige political parties to field people who meet the criteria.
Not only will this restore the value of education in political leadership, it will also create better prospects for our country. DM