Violence, education system linked – John Kani

Kani e1373177834900 Violence, education system linked – John Kani

There is a connection between South Africa’s scourge of violent crime and an education system that doesn’t encourage self-examination and empathy, dramatist John Kani has said.

Giving a talk entitled “Speaking Truth to Power” during the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown this week, Kani advocated for art education in schools.

Arguing that the school curriculum should not just promote maths, science and commercial subjects, he said: “Art is able to reach into the human soul and help us see ourselves better in relation to the outer world.”

Kani criticised South Africa’s education system for producing well-trained robots and not cultivating human beings. “What do I do with my son who hates education?” he asked.

Kani went on to paint a picture of a generation of children who wake up in the morning because they are scared of their parents and teachers, not out of love of education.

He went on to lament challenges like the phenomenon of unemployed graduates. Kani pointed out that “there must be something wrong with the content of our higher education that fails to prepare our children for life after university”.

He took shots at the FET college system too: “I didn’t pass but at least I can go to some college and learn to become nothing,” he said in dramatised fashion, before reminding the audience that it was the responsibility of the nation to educate its children, not the other way around.

As the debate heated up, with audience members sharing opinions about the government’s failures, Kani made a case for using art as a political tool.

He mentioned the protest art movement of the 1980s and the 1970s community theatre movement as examples of art engaged in politics of change.

He didn’t absolve audience members from sharing the responsibility. “As we talk of a need for inspired leaders and teachers, we must talk of inspired parents and inspired learners,” he said.

» Kani was at the festival to direct the play The Island, about life on Robben Island.

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