The past fortnight’s ferment at our universities was about students rising up against the single issue of fee increases in 2016. This issue-specificity, customary as it is in our country’s evolution, limits the impact and duration of reactive acts of civil disobedience. Thus what is happening does not portray the expected eruption of the people’s pent-up anger at many post-apartheid developments.
There are many other issues that other sectors of the population (some of which possibly even include the students) have strong feelings on, but which are temporarily in abeyance. This means that with just over a million students enrolled in public Higher Education Institutions (extrapolating from the published 2013 figures), these revolts are merely a return of volcanic activity. These signs occur when a volcano merely shows increased seismic activity with smoke, steam emissions and some rumbling occurring at higher than accustomed levels - this time at the academic heights of our society.
However, we must bear in mind that whilst these were also regular features of black tertiary academic life during the apartheid years, they were always the overt manifestation of broader underlying dissent with the entire system. The present higher education tumult being issue-specific is in this way akin to the (Hut and Poll Tax) Bambatha Rebellion, or the Defiance Campaign, or the regular trade union salary strikes - in fact, even the Sharpeville and Marikana Massacres. Similar reasons operated to destabilise the acquisition of education at the “Bush Colleges” of Bantu education ( Fort Hare, Turfloop and University of Zululand/Ongoye). Incidentally most students involved in the current upheavals are those who, under Apartheid, would have been enrolled at these “Bush Colleges”. Now however, every rebellious act is more visible because it is happening in the glare of the media and in the major cities of the land, at Tukkies, Wits, UCT, UOVS, Rhodes and so forth.
Therefore the staple bush college revolts against such things as disgusting food, racist lecturers, or the enforcement of Afrikaans as the sole medium of high school instruction that incubated the 1976 student riots, were and are all symptoms of the disease, but not the disease itself. Such is the case with the current tertiary fees revolt, and intuitively, we probably all know this. We know that this is just a skirmish, and not even a major battle in the historical war that began when the unequal foundations of South African society were laid over two centuries ago. In his/her heart of hearts, nobody reasonable disputes that the foundations of South African society - the word nation has never applied to this country’s people - were deliberately tilted so that the majority produced and the minority reaped the benefits.
We need to note that the word minority previously had black/white racist connotations, whereas nowadays the venal minority has become mixed and refers to a group of predatory adversaries who operate in our broader society. They set the rules that keep the playing field of opportunity and self-actualisation skewed in their favour. This has caused our traditional, centuries-old standoff in which the majority of the populace has really only been able to gain the upper hand once in the history of this land.
The people were only able to gain the upper hand when all the disparate manifestations of discontent were traced to their root cause, coalesced and championed by a single omnibus organisation, the United Democratic Movement (UDM). The UDM was the true voice of the people, because it represented all the people. Its members included the rich, the poor and the in-between of all colours; it had students, teachers, clergy, politicians, trade unionists, employers, employees and the unemployed, all of whom had come together- and were not prepared to disband without fulfilling their mission - to bring about democracy for all, whatever it took.
As such matters turn out, most of the leaders of the UDM are no longer with us, but largely have not yet died. Now, the mantle of leadership in this time of turbulence would have fallen naturally onto their shoulders, but they are not here. Instead of continuing with the long-term and difficult tasks of truly democratising the country after 1994, they chose to shake off the mantle of leadership so sorely needed today in favour of the mask of surrogacy. Hence by preferring not only to leave untouched the unequal socio-economic foundations of our country, but by being unabashed beneficiaries thereof, they have betrayed. This betrayal many now carry out in the corridors of government. So by preferring to join the ranks of the venal minority, and by laying aside their ideals and the legacy of the UDM, they have only showed why at this time we need a new UDM.
It need not be named UDM again, but the new movement must continue the work whose abandonment has brought us to this day. But let us not forget that there have been other such days and other such battles, with more to come from the supply-list: poor health facilities, lack of housing, poor service delivery, dormitory townships far from the workplace, unemployment, crime, poor working conditions. These and other trigger conditions, such as the current institutionalised obstacles to achieving your potential if you are black and at university, all come from the same birth-canal of racial domination that saw this unequal society come into being two centuries ago.
This is why the volcano of discontent is still only emitting smoke and steam, and why it is rumbling but not erupting at our universities. But this too will settle down – it already is - and another time of false calm and serenity, however short, will prevail. But as history has shown that at a time to come, the subterranean pressures will again combine with such might that a true eruption will occur. Then burning lava will flow in every crevice and fault-line in this land. When that happens, a new movement of the people will need to arise to channel the flow.
©Thabo Seseane. Gain Mastery Ltd.2015. Picture: Jan-Pieter Nap
Is a Mentor Essential for Personal Development?
The Webster Dictionary defines a mentor as: someone who teaches or gives help and advice to a less experienced and often younger person. What this suggests is, for instance, that teachers or lecturers are not necessarily mentors, that the mentor is not automatically older, and may be younger than the mentoring recipient but most importantly, that lack of experience in the given field is mandatory for a mentoring relationship to come about . So what is actually involved in the mentoring process?
Six Facts About Mentoring
1. Is mentoring essential for developing one’s talents fully?
Indeed it is. Throughout the ages, the most efficient model for passing on in-depth expertise between generations has been the mentoring model whereby an expert passes on his knowledge to his inexperienced, younger protege. A father-son, or parenting relationship of dominance and submissiveness then follows for some years until the protege has absorbed so much knowledge from the master that he/she operates at the same level as the master.
2. Must the relationship be restricted to the mentor’s field of expertise?
Whilst mentorship involves the passing down of many years’ accumulated knowledge and expertise in a given field, it may just involve instruction in one aspect, such as problem-solving, which can be applied in many fields of activity, or as a general life skill. An example is the post-school teaching of basic principles of philosophy, in order to develop good reasoning abilities which can be applied in almost any situation. Think of Socrates and Pluto.
3. Is life-long mentoring advantageous?
The relationship between the mentor and his subject is by its nature and definition a long one that typically spans more than 3 years. And so, the fact that it is such a close one, may lead to the development of strong emotional ties. These ties are important as they heighten learning. However, were the relationship to become fossilized as it were, at the original level of dominance/submission, then the entire objective of passing down expanded knowledge to the next generation would be lost. By expanded knowledge is meant that at some time during the mentorship, the mentee infuses the knowledge he receives with his own unique talents, thus breathing new life into it. At this stage a tension develops as the protege starts to strain at the bonds tying him to his mentor as well as the need to conform to the former’s way of doing things. If a life-long friendship comes out of this, then it is one between equals who have enriched their field, each with unique interpretations of it.
4. Must there be a positive emotional connection between your mentor and you?
Many studies have shown that a deep emotional connection of mutual affection and respect enhances the success of the mentoring project. This has even been proved by the neurophysiological finding of mimicry nerves that have the student unconsciously using gestures and/ or poses of an admired superior. Thus feel-good emotions between mentor and mentee easily lead to hard-wiring of lessons learned.
5. Do feelings of antagonism towards your mentor impede the relationship?
As was mentioned above, an important finding is that antagonism towards your mentor is a by-product of a successful mentorship, especially towards its end. This phase obviously requires insight and maturity from both parties. It is deemed largely necessary in that by this stage the mentee is transforming to become a potential mentor in his own right. And that mastery is at hand.
6. Does mentoring always mean a one-on-one interaction?
In this digital age, mentoring can be done without the human touch via books, especially e-books, e-courses and webinars. These can be highly effective, given mentee commitment, as well as in reaching a larger number of mentees. That said, the person-to-person mentoring environment has proven to be the best for successful outcomes.
How to get a mentor
The majority of the larger multinational companies have mentorship programs that run in-house. Former teachers, professors, senior colleagues, even friends or third party contacts can make wonderful mentors if properly selected. For the individual, there are also many online sites on connecting with a mentor. The majority of these online opportunities are mentor-driven, but the more fulfilling ones are the mentee-driven sites in terms of finding the perfect fit for the emotional comfort and multidimensional growth of the potential mentee.
© Copyright 2015.