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Asking questions is being disrespectful in our culture - Mhlanga

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By Fanyana Mabuza - SWAZI OBSERVER-08-Aug-2009

The Secretary General of the Swaziland National Association of Teachers SNAT, Muzi Mhlanga has noted that the culture of asking questions and debate was dead in the country.

He noted that these qualities had been killed off by a number of unfriendly legislations that impacted on such ideals, among them the Terrorism Act, adding that also the way we were brought up did not promote debate, since a child cannot stand face-to-face with an adult, as that is regarded as being disrespectful.

“There is too much fear today in our society such that people are not even willing to engage in debate. This has even rubbed in at schools where the debate sessions are slowly becoming an extinct commodity due to the fear of choosing the wrong topics. Today, you have to be very careful of what you say or question, lest you are identified as a ‘Comrade Civil Servant’ or other such tags,” Mhlanga said.

This, Mhlanga mentioned in the wake of reports that government was preparing laws that would purge political activist civil servants from the public service, meaning that asking too many questions could lead you to be labeled that and expelled from the service.

“In Africa, politicians took criticism harshly, however good intentioned it could be. This has stifled debate in almost all sectors of society, including schools,” he said. On the question of private schools versus private schools, Mhlanga noted that the current Minister for Education was going around threatening some such entities without searching for solutions that would halt the rampant spread of such private schools, some which even lacked basic amenities like toilets.

“Again this topic needs a thorough debate, but with the prevailing atmosphere, questioning the Minister would be interpreted wrongly in some circles and result in dire circumstances. We have to open up the playing field to allow the free exchange of thoughts and criticism or we will end up with a worthless education, the same thing we are trying to enhance right now.”

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