Very seldom has the death of anyone grabbed the soul of a nation the way the untimely and horrific death of Taegrin Morris did! The South African Institution of Civil Engineering (SAICE) expresses its deepest sympathy and horror at what has happened.

Why would SAICE, a Civil Engineering Institution, do so openly and without hesitation? Firstly, it is because many of SAICE’s members are mothers, fathers and grandparents to little ones the age of Taegrin. Secondly, because civil engineering practitioners always try to find solutions in order to better or improve the quality of people’s lives! Lastly, South Africa is still losing this priority scarce skill because of the crime situation in our country.

Where is the link? It was interesting to listen to Lynette Francis’ talk show ‘Praat saam’ on RSG radio station (100 to 104 FM) on Tuesday 22 July 2014. It was evident that every single person who phoned in was shocked to the core. Community members from Reiger Park on the East Rand and others from as far as the West Coast, expressed their sympathy and the feeling of helplessness in the face of such a tragedy.

Gregory Fish, principal of the Reiger Park Secondary School, voiced many people’s pleas, “When is enough enough? When is enough enough?!” It resounded with the 1 000 or so people who gathered in solidarity with the family in Reiger Park. Fish explained that it was their own community who did this deed; that the culprits are walking among them, they know the people!

Hein April, a community leader, who initiated Sunday’s gathering, in passionate outcry said that the bigger issues of rape and women/children battering in the community should receive attention. He implored the community to start talking about what is happening as they KNOW what is happening where! If people don’t talk about these issues and don’t care about what is happening next door, crime will continue! All the communities in South Africa are united in a massive outcry of distress against crime and everything associated with it, even the unforeseen consequences of what these criminals may have thought was a ‘straight-forward’ hi-jacking! This description alone is an indication of how we South Africa has degraded as a society.

It is being said that young people are wandering the streets without aim or incentive to turn their lives to productive ends – but how? If training programmes are rolled out where young people could become actively engaged in the South African economy, this dire situation could be reversed. But HOW? April mentioned that a strategic plan is needed, one where all stakeholders, including government, should stop talking, and just do the job! Street committees could identify individual problems, report them and then act – in this way festering issues could be solved timeously. Communities must take ownership to eradicate issues which detrimentally affect so many people.

Can communities themselves make a difference? Pieter from the small town of Doringkraal on the West Coast explained how they affect orderliness and peace. Their community forum works alongside the police forum. They have a multi-stakeholder forum in dialogue on everything that happens in this area. Should anything untoward occur, a door-to-door initiative is launched to address issues immediately? If you don’t do this, people lose their humanity. Now you may say that this can only happen in a small place! Isn’t a big place just a combination of many small places?

The shocking estimate that between 30% and 40% of all learners entering Grade 1, fall out of the system and never reach Grade 8 (high school), is disconcerting. These are the young people wandering the streets aimlessly, about whom the communities are concerned. They are in this situation because:

·       They have already failed grades (often two or three times).

·       They cannot read and write.

·       They cannot do maths/arithmetic. 

·       Schools are not equipped with enough remedial educators to cope with the numbers.

·       All special schools, where these learners should go, are always full with waiting lists of two  or more years.

·       Primary schools do not or cannot assist in finding these learners help in the form of psychologists who can assess them in the first place!

·       Primary schools cannot assist in finding these learners places in special schools.

South Africa cannot ignore this group. Nobody talks about them. Government programmes are aimed at those learners who have a matric or even Grade 10, but this aimless group is the forgotten generation. It is their time to be assisted and it needs to be done now. The socio-economic opportunity cost is too high if they are ignored.

So, where does SAICE fit into all of this? The civil engineering and construction industries have a vast number of career options, and create job opportunities for unskilled people. However, the political will has to be there to roll out projects for the industry to play its role! Having said that, industry must be engaged at the outset of government’s planning initiatives.

Mr Moe Shaik, at the 2014 Infrastructure Africa Conference in Johannesburg, commented in Engineering News on 21 July 2014, “If we leave infrastructure development to the politicians, we’ll have a world full of white elephants; if we leave it to the engineers, we’ll have a world no one can live in; and if we leave it to the financiers, we’ll have a world no one can afford.” If he could assist in getting the SAICE structures and the Civilution Forum to interact with the infrastructure departments at national, provincial and local government level, the engineering fraternity would grab such an opportunity!

Repeatedly SAICE has implored government to make use of their members’ expertise in the planning and execution of projects! This is another request to government: We are here, we are willing and we are able to help our government create jobs, and reduce our streets of criminal vectors that destroy families and communities.

 

Issued by the South African Institution of Civil Engineering

Marie Ashpole, Outreach Officer: SAICE

Tel: +27 (0)11 805 5947

Fax: +27 (0)11 805 5971

Cell: 082 870 9229

E-mail: marie@saice.org.za

www.saice.org.za

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