The key to funding free education

 The key to funding free education lies in a bold trade off by BOTH Business and Government.

A recent article published by McKinsey&Company, Why it’s still a world of ‘grow or go’ ,  really got me thinking.

When SA introduced BEE in 1999, the original intention was to create a nucleus of Black Controlled Capital to offset the 1% ownership of JSE listed companies in the hands of previously disadvantaged individuals.

The basic belief was that this nucleus would have greater inducements than their historically advantaged White counterparts and hence would deliberately and systematically precipitate cell-division (mitosis) that replicates and grows the base of ownership of capital in Black hands.

Over time however, this opportunity was largely concentrated within a small circle of politically well connected individuals who were able to convert their political currency into major financial currency by ‘opening doors’ to state contracts which was termed ‘stakeholder facilitation’ but was in fact high-powered introductions without necessarily adding value to the core operations of these companies.

In return for this then, the individuals concerned and their chosen joint ventures would be offered shares at a preferential rate and their loans would be funded with their own dividends without actually investing funds into the business. This then led to the emergence of Black Oligarchs who became billionaires within five years by leveraging political currency.

Given the limitation of the confines of this circle, this led to the creation of what one of my learned friends calls ‘an unintended monarchy’ of Black Business Elites who played a Game of Musical Chairs weaving in and out of the boards of corporate SA.

The contagion effect that our govt hoped would happen was proven to be a myth of neo-classical economics because the Black Hand of Black Owned Capital proved capable of being equally ‘invisible’ as the White Hand of White Owned Capital. So, the govt reacted by expanding BEE into BBBEE which was meant to be Broad Based.

However, the unintended monarchy simply grew. So, under pressure due to lack of the predicted trickle down effect, the govt then introduced Industry BBBEE Charters that sought to enforce empowerment and give preference to empowered companies according to a set of criteria.

The emergence of the Economic Freedom Front as a popular social movement is born out of the understandable frustration of broader society with the slow pace of change of economic livelihoods and the perceived limited prospects for upward mobility for both educated and uneducated youth alike as evidenced by the plight of unemployed graduates who have the dual burden of both unemployment and the debt burden of borrowed funding to acquire an education that has not yielded a secure income stream.

So, social justice here dictates that African governments and the African Union needs to re-think and re-imagine the disbursement of the fiscus that is funded by a shrinking tax base in what is a youth dominated African population.

Failure to re-imagine Our National Development Plan, will lead to us sinking in quicksand on a ship that was meant to sail on blue oceans. What I mean by this is that the American precipitated world financial crisis in 2010 proved to us that no economy is unsinkable. It took a bold captain to steer that ship away from the icebergs towards funded healthcare, declining unemployment, rising job creation and rising middle incomes.

The recent week long uprising of students in SA is a more coherent SASCO led articulation of the contradiction of relying on the private sector – regardless of ownership to fund what is a state imperative and duty to its citizens: A Better Life for All!

I therefore dare to say that it is socially irresponsible for government to expect the private sector to fund free education.

Doing so is an abdication of the solemn duty to uphold the quest for A Better Life NOT through the creation of legislated state dependency, but through engaged Citizenship driven by marshaling BOTH State AND Private Funds to co-create an educational ecosystem that allows potential to be nurtured and allowed to flourish regardless of financial background.

Currently, the corporate social responsibility programs of stock exchange listed companies focus on funding projects where there is social currency to be gained as a return on investment for funding and the additional benefit is tax breaks.

What better social currency is there than leaving the world you inherited from your warring forefathers in a better state for your children who have subsequently reconciled, but are on an uneven footing?

I challenge BOTH government and the private sector to respond imaginatively to the clarion call by students for free education.

At a personal level, I have pledged to donate 100% of my Royalties from the publication of my fourth book entitled, “FROM WHERE I STAND ~ iconic ideas echo into eternity by Sihlangule Mmiselo Siwisa to The vZ Group towards the establishment of an African Idea Bank which will fund Early Childhood Development across Africa with the view of creating Funded Access to Tertiary Education across Africa.

I challenge the Captains of industry in corporate South Africa to triple-match and multiply my Contribution a thousand-fold.

As a Citizen of South Africa, I challenge government to borrow lessons from the initiative that began under the late former Minister Manto Msimang to fully fund medical education for South African medical students in Cuba.

Why can we not scale this up in order to send units of young cadres to foreign lands to gather skills and then return to co-build Africa?

We can then create multiple skilled diverse nuclei of African Development with Indigenous Knowledge and Global Context to pursue African solutions for African problems without being overly insular and without assuming that as Black Africans we own the patent on suffering.

Then and only then shall the People Truly Govern.

Ongama Mtimka challenged us as this generation of young people at the funeral of the late Pastor Xolisa Vitsha who was Rhodes University PhD student in Politics specializing in African Philosophy.

He said in an address entitled ‘Your Country Needs You’, “thina Bantu abatsha beSizwe sakowethu sinoxanduva (we young people of the beautiful continent have a challenge) …either we will go down in history as the generation that is the offspring of victims OR we can RISE UP and be known as the generation that restored the dignity of the African Nation (and the Lineage of the African Child).

The Born-Frees who rose up in One Voice in October 2015 were able to identify the uprising of their generation and they were able – with singular focus that schooled their elder counterparts – to execute a peaceful but powerful March that reflected militant thought and tactical execution. It is this form of what Ace Moloi (the Author of In Her Fall Rose A Nation a Disciplined DisObedience of History).

What I think should happen instead is for the state to gradually reallocate budget funding from grants to investment in education from early childhood development to the 12 yr preparation to transition from primary (structure) to secondary (function) to tertiary (process) education.

The reason for this reallocation is that although the time horizon of investing in education is long; approx 15 yrs including pre-school, the return on investment of education for the individual, their family and community is much higher and more self-sustaining than social grants which leads to legislated dependency on the state while in fact the tax base is slowly shrinking.

A gradual reallocation of fiscus funds from social grants – with the exception of pension for the elderly, the ‘differently abled’ and child-headed households – I believe would lead to a far more broad based emergence of multiple and skilled nuclei of Black Development which is based on skills development and skills acquisition

What govt should do with White Dominated Corporate SA is to make it mandatory for each company to identify, incubate and grow these multiple nuclei of Black Development in a manner that enables us to monetize our own gifts through a Shared Value Enteprise Development Model.

The rationale here is that if you place 8 trainee chefs as apprentices with one skilled Head Chef, then they can bake 9 loaves together rather than trying to sub-divide one load into 9 slices of unequal proportion.

#FeesMustFall #AfricanIdeaBank

@SM_Siwisa (Twitter)

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