Saturday, August 16

Indian Schools in South Africa - Racism still persists

Unfortunately schools are always the target for social policy. One of the places, where this was observable in horrible detail, was in apartheid South Africa. One had white only schools, coloured only schools, black only schools and Indian origin schools.

It's this last one which caused me to take a deeper look at a paper which crossed my in box. The paper is by Anthony Lemon, and is titled "Indian identities in the 'rainbow nation': Responses to transformation in South African schools".

But how did these Indian schools fare after apartheid ended?
I am not sure if there are any definite conclusions, but I am just going to comment on certain noteworthy observations that the author made.

  • During apartheid, despite being segregated and having lower amounts of comparative funding, Indian schools did equal to the white schools, both in terms of enrolment as well as educational attainment. Now that I found to be quite interesting and the author points to the unholy drive that Indian parents have towards educating their children as the reason behind this performance.
  • But post apartheid, when just looking at 5 schools in a tiny corner of South Africa, some very interesting aspects come up. The first is that while the teachers, staff and governing bodies want to open up their schools to more black students, the parents usually are not that interested. Apparently the prevailing view is, once you let lots of blacks into a school, Indians are less keen to go to that school. Seems like the governing body, teachers and staff are more liberal and inclusive compared to the normal parents.
  • Second, while almost no white students would go to an Indian school, some Indian students will go to a white school. But this is either statistically insignificant or because the parents live next to a white school and not because of an explicit desire. Also, most Indian schools are equal if not better than white schools.
  • On the other hand, black students will commute very long distances to get to Indian schools which are considered to be much better than black schools. In many cases, the travel costs are greater than the school fees, which is very thought-provoking indeed.
  • In many schools with an Indian majority before but now having an African majority, the teachers and staff are still predominantly Indian, mainly because African teachers are very difficult to get, recruit and retain. But this is not as simple as it seems, as staff and teachers seem to be associated with their apartheid era racial attributes. So white teachers go to white schools, Indian teachers go to Indian schools, and so on and so forth.
  • But curiously, a pattern which seems to emerge is that Black teachers do not like to go the extra mile which Indian staff and teachers are famous for. For example, in a school, the principal is in school every day of the year, including weekends. Apparently this over the top dedication to teaching is not seen in Black teachers and thus they do not seem to last long in Indian schools.
  • Curiously, while Indian parents would be very heavily involved in the schools and with their children's education, that pattern does not seem to show up in black parents, because of poverty, long commute distance or other reasons.
  • But given that a huge amount of school funding comes from the parents, a paradoxical downside of opening up the Indian schools to Black students means a very big drop of school income. Given the current economic climate, this is hurting the Indian schools badly in terms of infrastructure development.
  • The United Kingdom seems to be siphoning out good teachers relating to physical sciences, biology, maths, speech and drama, languages and life orientation. They seem to be heading off for a better life and salaries.

Now this is what I found interesting and I quote the last line "Desegregation of former Indian schools, if sensitively managed, can make a significant contribution to that identity (Indian Identity within a rainbow nation) by gradually increasing understanding and acceptance of Indians by the black African majority".

So if I read this right, Indians are not accepted or understood well by black Africans and the feeling seems to be reciprocated solidly as shown by the school choices (albeit in a small sample). Racism seems to still be alive and kicking in a very saddening level in South Africa. But would it mean a race to the bottom in terms of inclusiveness or a race to the top in terms of merit? My sad prediction is the former, the balance of probability, looking at how public policy has been executed usually in that neck of the woods, usually means that when it comes to merit versus skin colour, the latter wins.

Friday, August 15

Balancing your books budget

A fascinating article and an even more lovely set of comments which talk about where to get second hand books. I love the idea of second hand books. Unlike food or cars, a second hand book contains exactly the same words and there is no diminution of quality. Also, given the fact that I was dirt poor once, the idea of getting something cheap is wonderful.

If I think about it, I would say that 50-60% of my library relates to second hand books, and I have got most of them from charity shops. I used to purchase heavily from e-bay as well, but ever since I got hit by fraud there, I have now moved to Amazon and have already built up a stonkingly big wish list. One day when I retire...I will have a leather couch in front of a fire and be surrounded with books and a magic cup of tea which never runs out...

Technorati Tags:

Monday, August 11

Bizarre messes and the people who clean them!

I have read a lot of bizarre thing, but this was the most bizarre one I have read so far. Can you imagine sitting there watching TV and suddenly you find maggots plopping down from the ceiling on top of your TV? Not just that, but maggots who have been gorging on the dead flesh of your upstairs neighbour? But then, my eyes were drawn to this:

"The flat, and those in the same block, required specialist cleaning and this was completed today.

The above mentioned case was one example. Here's another example of a woman who made a cup of tea and then sat down to watch TV and died - in 1966. She was only found now, without having finished her tea! And here's yet another example. Rachel Whitlear died after a heroin overdose and her photograph was used in a poster campaign for anti drugs. But you can see the photograph in the picture. After the body was taken away, who would have cleaned up such a place?

This made me think, what on earth or rather who on earth would actually be cleaning up a mess like that? I mean, just reading about this damn scene – specially if you have an imagination like mine, can make you nauseous, but to actually have to clean this mess up? And not just clean, but deep clean, so that no trace of it remains, nothing to see, smell or touch…

What a job! I suppose somebody has to do it and since I couldn’t begin to imagine what such a job would entail, I went looking for more information (I know, I am weird at following disgusting stuff like this). And the situation was even more horrifying than I first thought. Some of us humans are really dirty buggers and leave some really really really dirty stuff behind, not only that but there are some situations which really require some hyper cleaning. And I do mean hyper clean!

There are people who do this job. What a job, eh? They are brought in after a variety of situations and for many different reasons. You might have had a fire in your house which will require deep cleaning. Can you imagine yourself cleaning this kitchen?


Or this one?

Or how about trying to clean this flood damaged home?

Or say your home gets hit by a huge sewage spill?

Or a crime scene clean up?

Or this one?

(I tell you, some of the pictures were horrific, these are the more polite ones, some crimes can leave some really really bad stuff behind, and even more so when the crime scene has not been discovered for some time..)

How about mould damage? That gave me the heeby jeebies, imagine all that stuff growing on your walls? Disgusting!.

But hey, guess what? There is an entire industry out there dealing with this. Not only that, this industry is professionally run, with an association and all. For example, there is the British Damage Management Association. And you can get certified as well. And then insurance people would love to have somebody like this, who can judge the amount of damage, the amount needed to clean it up and return it back to normal. Pretty good, no?

All I can say, bloody hell, and thank god we have people like this to clean stuff like this up. Sometimes, these bizarre stories from human life are fascinating and truth is most certainly stranger than fiction!

Technorati Tags:

Sunday, August 10

Another very sad library story

Libraries and books are dear to me. So whenever I read about bad libraries, it makes me wince. When I read about how Iraq's antiquities were totally raped, it was bad. But the Americans did try to make amends, they tried to pump in huge amounts of money to improve the infrastructure which was destroyed by decades of sanctions, war and terrorism. So far so good. One very big initiative was to improve their law libraries in 2003 to 2005.

What happened to it after 3 years? Here, read this and weep. And this was the best of the lot. Long way to go, very long way to go. I would have lost my patience but Haider is obviously made up of braver stuff.

Technorati Tags: ,,

Hiding the ultra orthodox Jewish women

This blog post was amazing. As it turns out, apparently the ultra-orthodox folks do not like to show their women, so what did they do?

What was the original?


Medieval, seriously bizarre.

Technorati Tags: ,,