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Vandalization of schools a long-term consequence of ANC power struggle

The vandalization of schools is one of the most destructive phenomena occurring during the national period of lockdown. It is partly attributable to poverty, which was already a critical problem beforehand, and partly to the culture brought over from the ANC's power struggle, namely that schools are places on which communities can take out their frustrations.

Millions of people in South Africa were already living from hand to mouth. And now the period of lockdown has cut off that source of income.

The food parcel services cannot be delivered in all rural areas and, thus, people are resorting to desperate measures. Schoolgrounds generally cover large areas and so it is difficult to protect these areas effectively.
And in addition to that, schools usually have electronic and other equipment that people hope to convert to cash.

These facts, however, do not offer sufficient justification for why schools are senselessly being destroyed.

An adequate explanation actually requires going back a lot further to the ANC's struggle to gain power in South Africa. At that time, the slogan "liberation before education" portrayed the destruction of schools and the disruption of education as valid and even honourable ways to oppose the government of the day.

In the interim, the post-1994 government did not deliver on its promise to turn public schools into "public community schools". Instead of equipping underperforming school governing bodies with the skills and ability to do their job properly, more and more authority was given to the provincial departments of education. Calling on communities to "take ownership" of their schools is to send out mixed signals.

While it is necessary to look after schools and to apprehend and prosecute those who vandalise schools, it is even more imperative for the government to truly give communities full control over their schools. The centralist instincts of the ANC must be replaced by the devolution of power.

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