Necessary but insufficient: the South African obsession with...


Necessary but insufficient: the South African obsession with formal qualifications

Evidence shows profound correlations between higher education and prosperity, and a lack of education is associated with violent crime. Formal education, however, is no guarantee of ethical or professional conduct, writes ISMAIL LAGARDIEN.

FOR citizens of a country that has struggled for greater acceptance, inclusivity, access, equality and justice, South Africans are peculiarly, and often quite perversely, obsessed with “qualifications” – not so much as a barrier to entry as a signifier of social and political acceptability.

This obsession is displayed when, for example, a politician such as DA leader John Steenhuisen is dismissed because he “only has matric”, though nobody dares say anything about Jacob Zuma’s lack of formal education, social and historical contexts notwithstanding. Seriously now, Zuma was entrusted with the key to South Africa’s survival, while Steenhuisen is nowhere near the control panel and will probably never get there.

The obsession with formal high school qualifications was expressed over the past week or so by Truman Prince, formerly the mayor of Beaufort West and once a shining star of the ruling alliance. Prince was most recently prevented from holding political office in the Central Karoo District Municipality after Anton Bredell, the Western Cape local government MEC, petitioned to have his appointment set aside. Prince’s story is referred to because of relevance and timing...

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