Kaizer Nyatsumba: Britain should stop raiding our meagre resources

'A growing number of our professionals have been sought out and promised heaven on earth'

Share

In the euphoria that followed South Africa's historic 1994 elections, which marked a break with the apartheid past, it was widely and legitimately expected that those South Africans who had lived and worked abroad over the years would return home to contribute towards the reconstruction of their country.

In the euphoria that followed South Africa's historic 1994 elections, which marked a break with the apartheid past, it was widely and legitimately expected that those South Africans who had lived and worked abroad over the years would return home to contribute towards the reconstruction of their country.

Many of these people were professionals - engineers, lawyers, doctors, teachers, journalists - who had left South Africa to study in such countries as Britain, America and Germany, but had not returned at the end of their studies because of apartheid. There were also many young white men who had fled conscription, or who were anti-apartheid activists working abroad with liberation movements that were involved in the efforts to free South Africa from the stranglehold of apartheid.

The vast majority of these people did return home after the 1994 elections, although some adopted a cautious wait-and-see attitude before making the decision to go back. Many who returned, including journalists Benjamin Pogrund and Donald Woods, and medical researcher Dr William Makgoba (all of whom had been in Britain) are still in South Africa, actively making their contributions at a time when the fledgling democracy so badly needs them. Others, admittedly a minority among the initial batch of post-liberation returnees, quickly became disillusioned for a number of reasons, chief among them crime, and returned to the countries where they had previously been based.

Although South Africa is no longer as fascinating or interesting to the international community as it once was, it is still in the middle of a challenging process of reconstruction and it needs all the help it can get. The country needs not only all its citizens, including those of our compatriots who daily swell the ranks of emigrants to Australia, New Zealand and Britain, but also assistance in the form of human capital from more established, First World countries to supplement its own reservoir of expertise.

South Africa is still engaged in the daunting process of getting all South Africans to act and think of themselves as citizens of one nation, and to accept the need to share equitably the country's limited resources. This process is getting more difficult by the day, as a result of South African professionals being targeted for recruitment by Britain and other developed countries in the West.

Sadly, our professionals are now to be found in growing numbers, particularly in Britain and the US, not because they all actively took a decision to desert South Africa at its hour of need, but because a growing number among them have been sought out and promised heaven on earth. There is hardly a borough in London today at whose schools South African teachers cannot be found, and more local authorities are still sending delegations to my country to recruit teachers, most of whom would be among the best South Africa has to offer.

And yet, whatever problems exist at schools here in Britain and however serious the teacher shortage might be, these difficulties cannot compare to the even more serious problems confronted by the government back home.

South Africa does have a surplus of teachers, as the many colleges of education mass-produced them in the past. Many young people, who either did not get a good enough pass at high school to gain university admission, or who did not have the money to go to university, went to these colleges where they were almost always fully sponsored by the various "homeland governments" that existed at the time within the borders of one country. However, it remains very worrying that we are losing our best, university-educated teachers to far richer, First World countries. South Africa still badly needs its better-educated teachers - the very ones targeted for recruitment.

While I freely concede the right of those recruited to sell their labour wherever they choose, and of the UK authorities to recruit wherever they choose (after all, the teachers are not brought here by force), it nevertheless leaves a terribly bad taste in the mouth when a former colonial power continues to raid the meagre resources of a country that needs them much, much more.

You do not need to be Freud to understand that, given the seductive strength of the pound compared to the rand and the natural human desire to experience something new or different, South African teachers are queuing up to come here.

They, like the growing number of nurses coming to Britain and going to countries such as Dubai on contracts, tell themselves that they will go back at the end of their allotted time, having acquired experience which they will put to good use at home upon their return. Sadly, not all of them will do so: many will enter into long-term relationships and remain abroad, while others will find different reasons to extend their stay. After all, what could be more seductive than riches of the West?

The writer, formerly editor of the Durban 'Daily News', is Associate Editor of 'The Independent'. He will return to South Africa after his secondment

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Environmental Adviser - Maternity Cover

£37040 - £43600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's export credit agency a...

Recruitment Genius: CBM & Lubrication Technician

£25000 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides a compreh...

Recruitment Genius: Care Worker - Residential Emergency Service

£16800 - £19500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to join an organ...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Landscaper

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: In the last five years this com...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Errors & Omissions: Whoever and whatever Arthur was, he wasn’t Scottish

Guy Keleny
Labour's Jeremy Corbyn arrives to take part in a Labour party leadership final debate, at the Sage in Gateshead, England, Thursday, Sept. 3  

Jeremy Corbyn is here to stay and the Labour Party is never going to look the same again

Andrew Grice
The long walk west: they fled war in Syria, only to get held up in Hungary – now hundreds of refugees have set off on foot for Austria

They fled war in Syria...

...only to get stuck and sidetracked in Hungary
From The Prisoner to Mad Men, elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series

Title sequences: From The Prisoner to Mad Men

Elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series. But why does the art form have such a chequered history?
Giorgio Armani Beauty's fabric-inspired foundations: Get back to basics this autumn

Giorgio Armani Beauty's foundations

Sumptuous fabrics meet luscious cosmetics for this elegant look
From stowaways to Operation Stack: Life in a transcontinental lorry cab

Life from the inside of a trucker's cab

From stowaways to Operation Stack, it's a challenging time to be a trucker heading to and from the Continent
Kelis interview: The songwriter and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell and crying over potatoes

Kelis interview

The singer and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell
Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea