Monthly Archives: November 2013

Why you can’t trust World Economic Forum education rankings


The following article should be appearing on the RESEP website sometime today.


WEF rankings on education unreliable

Each year the World Economic Forum releases its Global Competitiveness Report which aims to “assess the competitiveness landscape” and “provide insight into the drivers of their productivity and prosperity.” They furthermore claim that this report “remains the most comprehensive assessment of national competitiveness worldwide.” Included in the report is an indicator of education quality where South Africa performs extremely poorly (132 of 144).

 Much of the work conducted at RESEP focuses on education in South Africa, the quality of that education and the links between the schooling system and the labour market. Martin Gustafsson, one of the researchers at RESEP, has looked into the WEF rankings on education and discusses four salient features which explain why the WEF rankings on education are especially problematic.

    1. Understandably, the 2012-2013 Global Competitiveness Report of the World Economic Forum (WEF) has caused a stir in South Africa as, despite a relatively good overall competitiveness ranking (52 out of 144 countries), a few indicators related to government service delivery, in particular education, put the country amongst the worst in the world. Specifically, in terms of the ‘quality of primary education’ we are at position 132 out of 144, in terms of the net primary enrolment ratio we are at position 115, and in terms of ‘quality of the educational system’ we are at position 140. The 2012-2013 report does not really present anything new. The figures in the previous year’s report (for 2011-2012) are very similar.

 2.      With regard to the educational quality indicators, it is important to bear in mind that the WEF does not make use of any standardised testing system in producing its report. Instead, it makes use of an expert opinion approach. In the case of South Africa, six respondents, all from the business sector, are asked to rate the quality of education along a seven-point scale from very good to very poor. One would expect the South African respondents to rate the quality of South Africa’s schooling poorly for a number of reasons. One is that in South Africa we have good data on our educational quality relative to other countries. In particular, TIMSS 2003 placed South Africa last, with respect to Grade 8 mathematics and physical science, amongst the 20 developing countries that participated (the other African countries participating were Botswana, Egypt, Ghana and Morocco). However, there are around 150 developing countries in the world, many of which have very poor information on the quality of their education systems. One suspects that experts in these countries would not rate their educational quality too poorly as they simply do not have the required information. In SACMEQ 2007, South Africa came ninth out of 15 countries in Grade 6 mathematics. It is noteworthy that although Lesotho did considerably worse than South Africa in SACMEQ, its WEF ranking in the quality of primary schooling indicator is 120, against 132 for South Africa. This illustrates the problem with subjective data on a matter which is relatively amenable to measurement.

 3.      With regard to the primary enrolment ratio, it is important to note that UNESCO’s enrolment ratios (the data source for the WEF) are widely regarded as problematic and often not amenable to useful international comparisons due to the fact that UNESCO calculates its ratios using official enrolment totals and official population totals, in other words information from very different data sources. In many developing countries there are strange discrepancies between the two sets of data. The problem for South Africa is that this discrepancy works in the reverse direction compared to most other developing countries. In South Africa, total population figures for children are simply too high compared to the enrolment totals. In most developing countries, the problem is that enrolment totals are inflated. South Africa’s enrolment ratios in the UNESCO reports appear to be relatively poor, but this means nothing and has confused a lot of people. Enrolment ratios derived from household surveys are a lot more reliable and these indicate that South Africa’s enrolment ratios, at least at the primary and secondary levels, are good by international standards. There is an abundance of literature that shows this. The WEF report itself points to the strangeness of the enrolment ratios it uses. According to the report, at the primary level our enrolment ratio is ranked position 115, but at the secondary level it is ranked 53. This raises an obvious question: How can enrolments at the secondary level be relatively good when at the primary level they are poor, yet the former depends on the latter.

 4.      Lastly, World Bank reports now identify 201 countries in the world.

 Part of Martin’s PhD research involved developing a method to compare the performance of countries on different (sometimes non-overlapping) international assessments of educational achievement. His 2012 Working Paper “More countries, similar results. A nonlinear programming approach to normalising test scores needed for growth regressions” can be found here.

“Becoming a man” – Paul Monette [Book reflection]

becoming a man

Last month, while browsing through the second-hand bookstore opposite the Biscuit Mill in Cape Town I came across this autobiography by Paul Monette and quickly added it to the growing pile of books I ended up leaving with. I’m very glad I did. In reading it I’ve had more than my fair share of chortles, tears and chokes – it is as moving as it is funny. I don’t think straight people will find it as meaningful given that it is written by a gay man, to gay people about gay men. Nevertheless, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to anyone interested in either autobiographies or the struggles of gay men in straight America.

When I write, either personally or professionally, I find that my natural style – that which comes most easily to me – is to write polemically with splashes of vitriol. Moderation is not my thing. It doesn’t come easily and with prose it’s no different. There’s a joke in our Department that the bulk of my supervisor’s editing  during the first year of my PhD was simply to delete (or at the very least tame) any adjective I used in reports for government. So where I wrote about “egregious inefficiencies” or ”wholesale ineptitude” this was pacified to “clear inefficiencies” and “systemic capacity deficits”. Words like ‘heinous’, ‘sclerotic’ and ‘unfathomable’ simply had to go, and rightly so I suppose. It would seem that writing in registers is something that is learnt but never taught. In any event I’m getting carried away here. The point is that I loved this book because I identified not only with the content but also with the emotionally-rich prose. Let me give you a chunk from the first page and you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about:

“I speak for no one else here, if only because I don’t want to saddle the women and men of my tribe with the lead weight of my self-hatred, the particular doorless room of my internal exile. Yet I’ve come to learn that all our stories add up to the same imprisonment. The self-delusion of uniqueness. The festering pretense that we are the same as they are. The gutting of all our passions till we are a bunch of eunuchs, our zones of pleasure in enemy hands. Most of all, the ventriloquism, the learning how to pass for straight. Such obedient slaves we make, with such tidy rooms.

Forty-six now and dying by inches, I finally see how our lives align at the core, if not in the sorry details. I still shiver with a kind of astonished delight when a gay brother or sister tells of that narrow escape from the coffin world of the closet. Yes yes yes, goes a voice in my head, it was just like that for me. When we laugh together and dance in the giddy circle of freedom, we are children for real, at last, because we have finally grown up. And every time we dance, our enemies writhe like the Witch in Oz, melting, melting – the Nazi Popes and all their brocaded minions, the rat-brain politicians, the wacko fundamentalists and their Book of Lies…So whether or not I was ever a child is a matter of very small moment. But every memoir now is a kind of manifesto, as we piece together the tale of the tribe. Our stories have died with us long enough. We mean to leave behind some map, some key, for the gay and lesbian people who follow – that they may not drown in the lies, in the hate that pools and foams like pus on the carcass of America.” (p1)

And with prose like that I can’t help but understand his struggle and feel his pain, even as I begin to better understand my own struggles and pains. I think one of the reasons why I was drawn to this autobiography was because it is not only one man’s autobiography, but one particular refraction of a common theme – living as a gay man in a straight world. Yet the plot and narrative also show a clear development and acquired nuance in his understanding of homosexuality – masterfully written to echo his own chronological realizations. What started out as a biological understanding of sexuality, explaining who likes whom and why, morphs into a far more abstract and realistic understanding that being gay is far more than simply sexual preference. It is also a sensibility, a disposition to meaning acquired through socialization and shared experience. Interestingly educational sociologists use the term “orientation to meaning” in their discussions about the propagation of class inequalities in society. It would be interesting to explore this notion with respect to gay meaning-making in contrast to straight meaning-making in a hegemonically heterosexual world.  But again I digress. Monette – a poet by training and profession – is also a brilliant social commentator with the flair befitting his orientation. In his writing he mixes equal parts of self-awareness, sorrow, literary genius and social commentary:

“I don’t come from the past, I come from now, here in the cauldron of the plague. When the doors to the camps were finally beaten down, the Jews of Europe no longer came from Poland and Holland and France. They came from Auschwitz and Buchenwald. But I will never understand how the straights could have let us die like this – year after year, collaborating by indifference – except by sifting through the evidence of my queer journey. Why do they hate us? Why do they fear us? Why do they want us invisible? I don’t trust my own answers anymore. I’m too twisted up with rage, too hooked on the millennium. But I find myself combing the past these days, dreaming dreams without sleep, puzzling over my guys, the gay and the straight and the inbetween. Somewhere in there is a horror of love, and to try to kill the beast in them, they take it out on us. Which is not to say I don’t chastise myself for halving the world into us and them. I know that the good guys aren’t all gay, or the bad all straight. That is what I am sifting for, to know what a man is finally, no matter the tribe or gender.”

And this is where Monette comes into his own – where he reaches the peak of his literary prowess – his visceral descriptions of a life well contemplated. He is not shy to include the sordid details of his sex life, but neither is he shy to expose the heart-ache and insecurity of an approval-seeking narcissist. He helped me to see that all of life is experience – the good, the bad and the ugly. This all stands in stark contrast to the religious dogma of fundamentalists whose petty priorities can only pass for legitimate by masquerading as absolute truth. I still have not managed to reconcile how otherwise intelligent people are so uncritical of the half-baked ideas of their religious superiors.

This book also helped me to realize just how far we are from the just treatment of gay people in society. As an educational evangelist I wonder if we will ever be able to unteach and unlearn the homophobia acquired over generations of prejudice and ignorance. How do you reason someone out of a position they didn’t reason their way into? You can’t. And this is where the parallels with feminism and gender become unmistakable. Contrary to popular belief, all people have received an education about gender. The vast majority receive their education by socialization into a sexist, gendered patriarchal environment. Unfortunately most never realize they’ve been taught or that they’ve learned anything as they continue with their hum-drum lives. For the enlightened few who can think enough and empathize enough to realize that women are truly oppressed – even in ‘liberated’ Western society – the task then becomes how we orchestrate change. Like true economists, those in positions of power realize that it is not good enough to only correct the cloaked-misogynists at the dinner table, but rather that the forces of markets, politics and religion must converge on a new truth – that men and women – heterosexual and homosexual – black and white – are all fully human and thus equally entitled to the full spectrum of rights, responsibilities and opportunities. Until that day we have work to do.

M&G article on testing matric markers


Today the Mail & Guardian published an article I wrote for them on the issue of testing matric markers prior to appointment. I include the article verbatim below…

Matric assessment misses the mark

22 NOV 2013 10:42 NIC SPAULL

Every year for the past three years the department of basic education has tried — unsuccessfully — to implement competency tests for matric markers. Each year the teacher unions derail these well-intentioned plans, with the South African Democratic Teachers’ Union (Sadtu) raising the biggest ruckus. 

The department’s logic is flawless: the integrity of the marking and moderation procedures of the National Senior Certificate exam depends crucially on the ability of markers to assess student responses accurately. Furthermore, without directly testing the content knowledge and marking competency of teachers one cannot be sure that the quality of matric markers is such that matric pupils receive the marks they deserve.

Importantly, the tests the department proposes would be conducted in a confidential, dignified and equitable manner that would not undermine the professionalism of applicants.

Sadtu counters that all teachers are equally capable of marking the matric exams and thus there is no need for minimum competency tests for prospective markers. This flies in the face of everything we know about teachers’ content knowledge and the pedagogical skills of large parts of the South African education system.

In a 1999 book, Getting Learning Right, Penny Vinjevold and Nick Taylor summarised the results of 54 studies commissioned by the Joint Education Trust, and wrote: “The most definite point of convergence across the President’s Education Initiative studies is the conclusion that teachers’ poor conceptual knowledge of the subjects they are teaching is a fundamental constraint on the quality of teaching and learning activities, and consequently on the quality of learning outcomes.” By implication this includes their ability to mark complex material accurately. 

More recently, a 2011 report [p13] by the Southern and Eastern African Consortium for Monitoring Educational Quality found that only 32% of grade six mathematics teachers in South Africa had desirable levels of mathematics content knowledge, compared with 90% in Kenya and 76% in Zimbabwe.

Similar findings
I could go on and mention the numerous provincial studies that have been conducted in the North West, the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and elsewhere that all find the same thing — extremely low levels of teacher content knowledge in the weakest parts of the schooling system — which, crucially, make up the majority of South Africa’s schools.

Given this situation, one wonders how Sadtu can argue that all matric teachers are equally competent to mark the matric exams or that they should not be tested. The union stance is that a system of teacher testing will disadvantage teachers from poor schools who cannot compete with those from wealthier schools. Although it is certainly true that the department has failed to provide meaningful learning opportunities to teachers in these underperforming schools, jeopardising the marks of matric pupils to make this stand is misguided, unethical and potentially even illegal.

These are important but separate issues and should be dealt with in different forums. But it is worth noting that the Western Cape has been testing prospective matric markers in the province since 2011, the only province in the country to do so.

The logic of the unions on this matter is perplexing. On numerous occasions they have rightly argued that teachers in poorer schools have not had meaningful learning opportunities and, therefore, that teachers are unequally prepared to teach, and by implication also unequally prepared to mark. Yet now they are arguing that all matric teachers are equally capable of marking the matric exams? So which is it? You can’t have it both ways. They either are or are not equally competent to mark matric exams. If it is the former, one cannot ensure children will receive the marks they are due; and if it is the latter, then one simply cannot argue that teachers should not be assessed prior to being appointed as markers.

On this question, a colleague of mine asked the following question: “How does the department employ people to teach matric when they are not considered competent to mark?” The uncomfortable answer is that, unfortunately, many matric teachers are neither competent to mark nor to teach — and this is because of no fault of their own. The blame instead falls squarely at the feet of the department, which has not provided them with quality professional development opportunities.

If one looks at the specifics of appointing matric markers, the union objections become even more bizarre. Although all matric teachers are legally allowed to apply to be matric markers, who is appointed and the criteria used for making these appointments are solely at the department’s discretion. Provided that these criteria are aligned with the position and are not discriminatory on such grounds as race, gender and sexual orientation, the department can select whomever it decides is most capable of doing the job.

Selection criteria
Currently the selection criteria relate to qualifications, teaching experience and language proficiency, but — bizarrely — not content knowledge. Given the nature of the work — assessing student responses for grading purposes — it seems only logical that applicants should be able to demonstrate this competency prior to being appointed for possessing it.

Because of the importance of the matric exam’s results for the life chances of individual pupils both in terms of further education opportunities and labour-market prospects, the department should put its foot down and take a stand for the 700 000 or so part-time and full-time students who are writing matric this year: it should insist that the 30 000-odd matric markers be tested prior to appointment.

Pupils, parents and school governing bodies have every reason to be concerned when there is no formal testing process to ensure that the teachers who will mark their all-important matric exams have the competence to do so in a consistent, fair and unbiased manner. Whether or not competency tests for matric markers are implemented has nothing to do with the unions and everything to do with the fairness of the marking and moderation procedures.

In sum, should prospective matric markers be tested prior to appointment? Yes. Is this a union issue? No. Will this be the last we hear of it? Unfortunately not.

Nic Spaull is a researcher in the economics department at Stellenbosch University. His education-focused research can be found at Follow him on Twitter @NicSpaull

**Regarding the infographic above, while the stats are correct the textbox on the right stating “capability of teachers to mark exam papers competently” is a little misleading since the test assessed only the content knowledge of Grade 6 mathematics teachers, not their marking competence per se. That being said, they are obviously linked. No harm no foul 🙂

School Monitoring Survey 2011 (aka Depression laced with hope)

school monitoring survey

The Department of Basic Education has recently released the report on the School Monitoring Survey of 2011 which surveyed 2000 public ordinary schools with the aim of monitoring progress towards the goals set out in the Action Plan to 2014. Let me warn you that it makes for depressing reading – even for those familiar with how bad things really are. Really. While the results are truly atrocious/shocking/abysmal (we are running out of adjectives to accurately describe the South African schooling system) there is one ray of hope that comes from all of this. It’s not so much the contents of the report – the only thing hopeful in the report are the school feeding stats! – but rather the fact that the report itself was commissioned (surprise #1) and then that it was actually released (massive surprise #2). If we try and walk in the DBE’s moccasins for three days, as the Native American saying on empathy goes, we would realize that this takes commitment, resolve and leadership. To commission a survey that will certainly reveal damning information, but information that is necessary for improvement, is the first step. But to realize that public discussion, transparency and accountability are all integral parts of democracy and progress is something else altogether. That is truly and honestly something to celebrate and a big break with the denialism of previous Ministers of Education. Kudos to those involved! But before you crack out the champagne read the bulleted summary of the report below. Actually, mid-day drinking is probably the most rational response to findings like these…        

  1. Only 69% of schools had all allocated teaching posts filled (highest in the Northern Cape: 78%, lowest in the North West: 58%).
  2. Of the 60 hours of annual professional development that teachers should have done by the time of the survey, the South African average was only 38 hours (Western Cape: 60 hours, Limpopo: 30 hours).
  3. Percentage of educators absent from school on an average day was 6% nationally, 8% in KwaZulu-Natal and 3% in the Western Cape.
  4. Of Grade 6 learners nationally, only 7% had done at least 4 exercises per week (the minimum standard) for language and 31% for Maths. Of Grade 9 learners nationally, only 1% met this requirement for language and 6% for Maths.
  5. Of Grade 6 learners nationally 83% had access to a Maths textbook and 78% had access to a Language textbook. For Grade 9 the figures were 83% for a Maths textbook and 68% for a Language textbook.
  6. Only 57% of students in South Africa were in a school that had either a central school library, a mobile library or a classroom library (Western Cape: 89%, Limpopo: 30%)
  7. Only 48% of schools had a School Governing Body that met the minimum criteria for effectiveness.
  8. Schools receive different per-learner subsidies from the State depending on if they are from the poorest 20% (Quintile 1), the second Poorest 20% (Quintile 2) etc. Quintile 1 learners get allocated R905 while Quintile 5 (richest 20%) get R156. Nationally 47% of students were in schools that were funded according to the minimum level (Western Cape: 95%; Mpumalanga: 10%).
  9. Only 55% of schools have minimum infrastructure needs (Gauteng: 90%; Eastern Cape 33%). Minimum infrastructure needs are defined as having running water, working electricity, fenced school premises, separate toilets for boys and girls, and separate toilets for teachers.
  10. 86% of south Africa learners received a free school meal every day (Western Cape & KZN: 81%; Limpopo: 94%). In Quintile 1, 2 and 3 schools, 96, 95 and 91% respectively were found to have a National School Nutrition Programme (NSNP).
  11. 87% of schools were visited at least twice a year by a district official for monitoring or support purposes during the year (Western Cape: 99%; Eastern Cape: 74%).
  12. Only 34% of principals rated 50% of more of the district support services as satisfactory (Gauteng/Western cape: 63%; Eastern Cape: 24%).

 When we think of what these kind of findings mean for things like social mobility, chronic poverty and the personal dignity of the poor and marginalized it would seem the only reactions are anger and despair.  God help us.

Seeing things as they are

see things


  • Carol Paton writes a helpful summary of some of the findings from the NSES book “Creating Effective Schools.” Read it if you consider yourself informed about SA education. Take the “What are policy-makers doing?” things with a pinch of salt – I don’t have time to go into why some of those ‘remedies’ or ‘responses’ aren’t as impressive as they sound. Some are legit though 🙂
  • Crazy hectic typhoon hit the Philippines – before/after GIF showing just how much devastation there was. So sad.
  • After watching this TED talk I am more convinced than ever that I am a 100% feminist. Actually 110%. If you’ve never done a course on gender or even thought about it, watch this 30min talk by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – she is humorous, insightful and eloquent, proclaiming what will be such an obvious truth in the future – that we should all be feminists.
  • How much is a professor worth? – NYT article comparing the relative salaries (in PPP) across the world (SA ranks pretty high 🙂 – via Johan Fourie
  • Concise M&G article on the state of learning deficits in South African education – “Too little, too late condemns pupils” by @Victoria_JohnMG – nice article about part of my CDE report.
  • A few weeks ago I got my first experience of live television as part of CNBC Africa’s panel discussing education in South Africa – see here. I could get used to this #JustSayin
  • The paper I wrote with Stephen Taylor for Save The Children is now available online: Trends in Effective Enrolment: Measuring Access and Basic-Quality Improvements in Education for Nine African Countries 2000-2007 (perhaps we should’ve thought of a more concise title?!)
  • Got a cool idea for social change through education and technology? Shuttleworth Foundation fellowships are now open (deadline 1 May 2014)

Media coverage :)

Mud schools, no lights or electricity, overcrowded. Madelene Cronjé


This should be going up on the RESEP website sometime today – just a summary of media coverage of my CDE report:

RESEP researcher’s education report receives media attention 

A recently published research report on the state of the South African schooling system over the 1994-2011 period has received widespread media attention over the last month. The 65-page report titled “South Africa’s Education Crisis: The Quality of Education in South Africa 1994-2011” by RESEP researcher Nic Spaull was commissioned by the Centre for Development and Enterprise (CDE). One newspaper highlighted the low levels of teacher content knowledge discussed in the report (City Press: “Grade 6 pupils beat teachers at maths“). The Mail & Guardian focussed on the learning deficits that children acquire which prevent further learning at school: “For pupils who fail to grasp basic maths and reading skills in their early years, learning deficits accumulate over time until they eventually become ‘insurmountable.’ Similarly, The Times identified the high levels of grade repetition and automatic progression that plague the South African system: “Just because a child proceeds to a higher grade does not necessarily mean that he is learning. In the absence of proper standardised exams, the links between progression and real learning are very weak. This is the case in South Africa.” Nic also discussed the report on PowerFM, CapeTalk and CNBC Africa.
The report included sections on the inequality of learning outcomes in South Africa, as well as learning deficits, teacher content knowledge, matric outcomes, and transitions from school to work. The report concludes with a set of policy recommendations including 1) making the Annual National Assessments reliable, 2) implementing a nation-wide system of minimum-proficiency diagnostic teacher testing and capacitation, 3) increasing accountability at all levels of the system, 4) increasing the technical capacity and implementation ability of the Department of Basic Education, and 5) set realistic goals that focus on the universal acquisition of basic skills.
Nic’s research can be found here and the full report can be downloaded here.

Cultural loci and African intellectuals…


A little while ago a friend of mine and I were discussing the recent increase in the number of countries and American States that have now legalized gay marriage or are in the process of doing so. I argued then, and maintain now, that this increase will continue indefinitely in a monotonic fashion and will most probably also accelerate after reaching a tipping point sometime in the next decade. My friend, being the sensible lad that he is, agreed that this does seem to be an increasing trend rather than just a momentary spurt, but also suggested that perhaps the tolerance and acceptance of gay marriage is really just a function of economic power which is clearly changing and that perhaps the new powers won’t be as tolerant. The economic trajectory of the West is plateauing even as BRIC countries find their feet and begin their speedy ascent. Interesting, I thought, since the changing of the guard could well mean a change in norms and values, and China and Russia (!) certainly do have a different set of values to the U.S on a variety of things, including gay marriage. But the more I got thinking about this I realized that we are nowhere near the zenith of the West’s power and influence as a hundred different examples easily show. I think if we did a global survey of brands, TV shows, celebrities, intellectuals, politicians etc., we would find the West dominates the list by 100 to 1. Of course there are some celebrities from India and Brazil that we all know – Ashwaria Rai, Tendulka, Pele, Ronaldo etc., but I can’t think of any Chinese or Russian celebrities offhand? Does that make me a bad person? Am I just a consumerist cog in the capitalist American machine succumbing to exploitation by patriarchal imperialists?! OK, perhaps a little. But the point remains that the West, and within it largely America, set the tone for the world. Economically yes, politically, yes and most important for this current discussion, America is the global trend-setter and the cultural locus of the world. A cultural version of America sneezing and the rest of the world catching a cold. Chinese elites wear American clothes and aspire to American symbols of status, wealth and power. American elites do not aspire to Chinese anything as far as I can tell. American cultural influence (and more generally Western sensibility) is here to stay, as far as I can tell. Something I am quite happy about as far as gay marriage is concerned.

The reason why I like thinking about these types of questions is that they come back to broader ones about modernization and westernization. In Africa especially, it is difficult to find textbook examples of countries that have managed to modernize rather than Westernize. I think this is probably because the path to Westernization is so well sign-posted and well travelled, with trains leaving every hour on the hour heading towards a clearly articulated and visible goal. In contrast, the path to African modernization in an African way is like bundu-bashing towards a mirage that no one has really seen before. Does the Utopian vision of an African Renaissance include things like democracy, capitalism and gender-equality? Or are these just un-African Western impositions? Some say that Africa needs these things but it needs Africanised versions of them. OK great, but how do you decide what to keep and what to scrap? Inevitably people end up asking: “Why don’t we just adopt the whole package? They look pretty happy over there in America, let’s just do what they do?” What’s good for the goose is good for the gander, no? If you dig a little deeper there are many reasons why we can’t and shouldn’t “just do what they do” ranging from national pride, personal dignity and cultural heritage, all the way to linguistic diversity and genuine social, economic and political freedom. But the only people capable of formulating and articulating the African ideals to which Africans can aspire are African intellectuals. They are necessary catalysts. Unfortunately they are in short supply. Where did all the Khama’s and Mandela’s and Nyerere’s go? Where are our 40-year-old public intellectuals challenging Western ideas and (importantly) proposing African one’s to fill their place? We have a few big mouths that love to bash the West but don’t fill the vacuum that their criticism creates. Perhaps they do exist and I don’t know about them? If you know of any young, inspiring African intellectuals please write a comment and post a link to some of their work. This is one time I hope to be wrong…