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'Edumocracy': Education by the people, for the people, to the people!

In his book, Beyond the Limits to Growth (2014), author Hiroshi Komiyama writes about the pursuit of a 'platinum society' - a society that aims to improve the lives of people through innovation, through coordination with industry, government, and academia. It was such a society that beckoned at the new dawn of democracy in 1994 when the country transitioned into a new political dispensation with a new Constitution and Bill of Rights, new anthem and a new international identity.

Fast forward to 2022 and South Africa is in a quagmire of despair! The democracy dividend has been squandered and the socio-economic and ethical challenges of high unemployment, endemic corruption and pervasive crime have robbed us of hope.

Unfortunately, our socio-economic challenges show that as a nation we’ve lost our way due to poor leadership and the fact that we ‘outsourced’ our destinies to a ruling party that had a yearning for political power, but little experience and expertise in managing a modern state. The decrepit state-owned enterprises and underperforming municipal services in many districts provide evidence of that.

Hence a platinum society can only become possible if we find a common voice, authentically connect with each other, leverage value from our synergy and learn to journey together! Yes, we share the collective pain of a failing state, but it does not serve any further purpose to constantly criticise national government. Too much has been written, including in the Zondo Commission Reports, about the government’s incompetence. More important is to note that we share collectively responsibility for our failings as a nation. As pointed out by physicist Fritjof Capra (1994), political, economic and social systems are ecosystems which are located within a web of relationships. This means that to fix our problems, we need to move beyond blaming and toward owning our problems and coming up with generative possibilities.

Edumocracy, a made-up term intended to mean ‘education by the people, for the people, to the people’ underscores the urgency for citizens to be ‘woke’ to the need to learn about how to live in a world that is rapidly changing, more complex, and increasingly fragile. Alvin Toffler in Future Shock (1970), wrote: ‘The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read or write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn’! Edumocracy hints at the exponential potential that can be unleashed when we tap into the generative abilities of our citizens to learn and to share our learning resources – financial, skills, intellectual, in a way that responds to the challenges faced in the world. Experience and expertise reside in the length and breadth of this land. "Each one teach one" was a powerful rallying call in the midst of the education struggles in the 1980s.

Hence, the urgency for an edumocracy is particularly acute during Youth Month (when we reflect on the struggles of our youth). As a nation, we must bow our heads in shame in how we have failed our youth, our future leaders and on whose shoulders the future of South Africa rests!

But, we are South Africans! We overcame apartheid, gave the world a Nelson Mandela, the business world an Elon Musk, the sporting world a Siya Kolisi, the disaster relief efforts a Dr Imtiaz Sooliman, and we conceptualised the most progressive Constitution and Bill or Rights in the world. Woven deep into our psyches is resilience, creativity, empathy and a joy for life that overflows. We can once again rise above our challenges if we be and do as South Africans!

6 Jun 2022 12:58


About the author

Rudi Kimmie (PhD) is CEO of Tsiba Business School. He writes in his personal capacity.

TSIBA Education trading as TSIBA Business School is registered as a non-profit and public benefit organization with the Department of Higher Education and Training as a private higher education institution under the Higher Education Act, 1997. (Registration certificate no. 2007/HE08/001)