19 March 2021 | Story Dr Martin Mandew | Photo Kaleidoscope Studios (Sonia Small)
Dr Martin Mandew
Dr Martin Mandew believes that the devastating impact of the pandemic will be felt for quite some time.

A Human Rights view by Dr Martin Mandew, Campus Principal of the UFS Qwaqwa Campus

It is not easy to discern the silver in the lining of the pandemic cloud that we have been living under over the past twelve months. I hazard to say that for those at the bottom of the socio-economic heap, those whose daily life is nothing but a gut-wrenching struggle to scrape together a semblance of a meal, talk of silver linings is foreign to their experience. The pandemic has shown just how low leaders can sink when elected public officials steal and redirect food parcels – meant for the poor and destitute – for their own personal consumption, for those close to them through family ties, through friendship and through political affiliation, or sell it for personal financial gain. The intended relief measures, designed to be non-partisan, are used instead to promote the socio-political divisions that already exist in the community. The unspoken mantra seems to be: If you look like me, if you think like me, if you believe like me, if you speak like me, if your political beliefs are like mine, only then can you expect me to do the public good for you and for your benefit that I have been elected to do, even though I get paid for carrying out this very important task. Talk of unity is rich in such an environment.

The devastating impact of the pandemic will be felt for quite some time. In the next twelve months we must, despite the enormous challenges ahead, re-imagine and craft a future of unity, where personal, political, ethnic, racial, gender, economic, and other differences will not stunt and sabotage efforts of socio-economic renewal. This Human Rights Month is a stark reminder for us to go back to our foundations as a South African nation. It is a time to press the reset button in the agenda of nation-building. Nation-building is not achieved through a fiat, a ‘let-it-be-so’ declaration. While taking the necessary steps to rebuild a battered economy, nation-building also entails making the necessary investments in social support to alleviate the impact of the pandemic on the most vulnerable in society, while also ensuring that the white-collared hyenas are kept at bay. The right to health care, food, water, and social security is enshrined in the Constitution.  

The future
Nation-building also entails making bold investments in education, taking care that as budgets are re-organised, re-prioritised and reduced, the education sector is not made a casualty of austerity measures. We must not falter to build our nation on a solid foundation of education, ensuring that we make the right investments and the required interventions in this very critical sector. There are components in the sector that are weak and glaringly under-resourced, such as early childhood development, as well as post-school technical and artisanal training. We need to strengthen these as part of building a firm foundation for our fledgling nation. This is a very important asurance for the future of our nation. Only an educated nation is best equipped to confront the challenges that lie ahead, such as those that the COVID-19 pandemic has thrust upon us. The right to education is enshrined in the Constitution.

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