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Response to Opinion Editorials

Date Released: Tue, 19 February 2013 12:59 +0200

TO: DR. Saleem Badat

18th February 2013

Dear Dr. Badat

Your articles in Opinion Editorials 2012 answer to the very heart of my intellectual fibre and to my personal and professional quest for a common humanity with fellow south Africans regardless of race, culture, creed,  background or socioeconomic status.

I reiterate so much of what you say as I work at the ‘coal face’ of the issues you so aptly and practically describe.

I have been saddened for 11 years now at the educational deficiencies in rural children partly due to their poverty (especially, in the case of their cognitive growth, lack of nutrition) and partly due to the poor educational resources they experience.

In one morning’s assessment administration in one small rural primary school outside of Durban, my intern psychologists and I ‘discovered’ between 8 and 15 children who will definitely not be able to progress to high school. Without our assessments, they would have moved there anyway probably to be condoned for 2 years and then failed every 3 years (as is the system). Assessments enable care dependency/disability grants which enable attendance of special schools (if there are any in the area). Few schools access these assessments as there is no functioning government service that can cope with the existing number of pupils in schools.

Another example, typical of what we come across when we fly to rural clinics with the Red Cross Air Mercy service, is of a boy of 14, dirty, unkempt, thin and malnourished, not even being able to write his name in Grade 6 and never remembering a teacher ever once giving him individual attendance. This was a boy, whose mother was deceased and who was brought by his father to see us psychologists in a rural hospital clinic in Nkandla, northern KwaZulu-Natal.

I work with intern psychologists of different languages, backgrounds and cultures. Most of this outreach work we do is pro bono. Sadly, there is only so much we can do. Our task is like trying to fill a sink without a plug in it. Some of the dishes, though, do get washed.

Your articles give me hope if students of the future will look to contributing further than lining their own pockets. A lot of them do so, I am sure, but your encouraging, edifying words to them will go far.

I have a son at your university, first year undergraduate, David Themba John. He is the 8th member of my family to attend Rhodes University and from the third generation. My two daughters studied law and journalism at Rhodes. My parents are Brian and Mary Clarke. My mother studied social work at Rhodes many years ago.

I was glad to meet you at the alumni evening.

I would be very grateful to receive the Editorial Opinion of 2013.

With thanks and kind regards

Dr. Sally John

(PhD in the field of Indigenous Psychology through the Educational Psychology Department of the University of Pretoria)