Reading an interview with Jonathan Jansen in an Afrikaans daily took me on a trip down memory lane. Specifically, to the beginning of the academic year of 1979, at the newly opened high school in a small West Coast village about 200km north of Cape Town. This was the school where Jansen started his teaching career after completing his honours in science, but with an unmatched degree of energy, enthusiasm and zeal. This was for his subjects, maths and science, but especially for his students.
"JJ" motivated us, mostly pupils whose parents were fishing folk, to start dreaming about going to university.
Through his belief in us and motivation to do our utmost (while returning after every trip to Cape Town with application and bursary forms), we repaid him with a quality of matric results and number of learners to attend tertiary studies that was only matched almost 20 years later. From "his class" emerged lawyers, teachers, social workers, a scientist, a doctor and even a student who attended a North American university to complete his PhD.
In his farewell speech at the University of Cape Town, Prof Njabulo Ndebele defined a leader as someone who takes those around him or her to places they would never have been able to reach on their own. That is what JJ did for us during the dark days of apartheid.
Contrast this with Jacob Zuma, who today asks the youth to become radical in reclaiming the economy while at the same time his national education department ensures our pupils are bottom of the ladder in almost every international reading, writing and arithmetic test. This same department is also apparently under the impression that to downgrade maths will help decolonise our education.
I leave it to readers to decide which one of the above-mentioned persons is a true leader and builder of SA, and which will go down as the biggest sham and destroyer of our country.
Derek AbrahamsVia e-mail