Language is the issue!

Language is the issue!

Do you think that Language is the issue?

It has been identified that language, or rather the lack of understanding of it is the cause of low levels of quality passes in high school. This is particularly true when considering how the majority of black learners choose to avoid mathematics. It is said that the language you speak predominantly may determine how your brain works in solving mathematics related questions. Brain scans have revealed that Chinese speakers rely more on visual regions than English speakers when comparing numbers and doing sums.

Some researchers report that our mother tongue may influence the way problem-solving circuits in our brains develop. But they add that different teaching methods across cultures, or genes, may also have primed the brains of Chinese and English speakers to solve equations differently.

Roxanne Khamsi from Journal reference: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0604416103).

Is it therefore possible that Language Is The Issue?

These references and results of research hold true to the South African context. However, our biggest challenge remains the implementation of mother tongue teaching and learning. The unique environment that is South Africa, the diversity in a pot filled with eleven official languages and our economic driven migratory patterns are but a few of the challenges we face. As a result, mother tongue teaching is not an immediate solution lest we run the risk of excluding others. Gauteng, as the hub of our country’s economy is host to many cultures and in them, a variety of languages. How then do we address educational development?

The unique state of South Africa implies that better strides have to be taken now to improve life coaching and the quality of English teaching at our schools. Our learners and teachers need to be coached to understand the importance of English and using that approach to improve the quality of teaching and learning.

So, clearly, language is the issue!

The architecture of revolt: Part 1

Photo credit: Abahlali baseMjondolo

South Africa is headed toward celebrating two decades of “FREEDOM”.

What have we got to show for it?

Most people will say that the freedom to vote, that came to many who had previously been denied, is something to be celebrated. However exercising a vote without full understanding of the process will set us back. Politicians will seduce the registered voter with promises, many of which will not be fulfilled. You will be told that once in every five years, South Africans vote for a Government of their choice (THIS IS NOT TOTALLY TRUE!). You are told and as it is displayed on many political party campaign posters; you are made to believe that you have the power to vote for a specific candidate to become president (THIS IS NOT TRUE!). The South African Constitution does not allow for registered voters to elect a President of the Republic during General National Elections; this is a previledge reserved for a few in the National Assembly. South Africans go to the polls to show support for a political party.

Paragraph 86 in Chapter 5 of the Constitution of the Republic (Act 108 of 1996) lays out the process of election of the President. The summary of which is that the President is elected by members of the National Assembly at its first sitting after General Elections. It is then the responsibility of the President to appoint a cabinet. That simply means that all Ministers including the Deputy President are a choice of one individual. When in anger and in protest, I have heard people complaining that they have voted for the President and his cabinet and now they demand that they should be accountable to them. What I believe and through what I have seen, the Government of South Africa is only “accountable” to a few in the National Assembly. It is this flaw in the electoral model that makes politicians feel that they can operate as they please without consequence because their fellow members in parliament will support and protect them.

Pre and post elections, I believe that the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) should take full responsibility to educate the masses about their rights and the process of elections.

At some point in the past, a commission was setup to investigate another electoral model. Since the release of the report, I have read what most experts have had to say on the matter. Many believe that the current model is ideal for South Africa because the ordinary registered voter is not sofisticated enough to understand other models. These are people who have now decided that we lack the mental aptitude to make such “complex” decisions that pertain to our future. This is then supported by politicians and somehow we are not ever given an opportunity to make this decision by majority vote in a referendum.

Ignoring plebeians and always assuming that they will come out of slumber once every five years to support a few is not only dissapointing but also insulting. The concept of an alliance of unions with a political party that is represented in the majority, both in the National Assembly and also in Cabinet is also confusing. How do they reconcile their responsibilities to their members against the aspirations of a political party to win at the polls? It is again, my opinion that many union members will be sacrificed at times to advance political aspirations. Another trend has emerged since the massacre at Marikana; workers are now taking a stance against major unions because they feel ill-represented. These are the very people who are thought not-educated enough to understand complex electoral models. They are now taking decisions that will shake unions at their foundations.

First it is asserted that South Africans should portray interest in the country and recently there is talk of active citizenry toward 2030. This call is however frustrated by actions of politicians sidelining ordinary people and treating them with contempt. Lest they learn from our friends in the north of us, an “Arab Spring” might just be headed our way. Our loyalty is not their right!

Our President has requested that people should stop speaking I’ll of South Africa; to which I implore him to keep that ammunition out of reach.

–Thurston Sebotsane (Inspirational Speaker & Life Coach)–

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Africa in the palm of his hand

Africa in Nelson Mandela's hand printAfrica awoke to news of the imminent release of Nelson Mandela from prison on 11 February 1990 (which was meant to be his home for life).

I remember those days fondly when people spilled over onto the streets to celebrate. I suppose these were the same scenes in Africa and the world. There were emotive chants and singing. They filled the streets and danced. I stood meters away from a man performing stunts with his car. He performed ‘doughnuts’ all the while hanging out the window of his car.

My ignorance was immediately apparent; Many people knew about Nelson Mandela. Africa celebrated the man. I was still wet behind the ears relating to any matters of politics. In fact, I had only read a few articles about the man who soon would be loved by the world. More for what he was yet to do rather than for what he had already been punished.

The first democratic elections ushered in a new era and I was old enough to cast a vote. I do not know what or how I had expected to feel. I let go of the ballot and it dropped into the box. I turned to look around and people were all smiles; I supposed I had contributed to making history. I had made something of the greatest sacrifice made by the few who had sacrificed for so many.

Africa and the world waited to see what would happen. All the while at home, some were filled with hope and joy while others retreated to their bunkers to a life of canned food, cured meats and fear.

Today, South Africa and indeed many around the world celebrate 94 years of Nelson Mandela. We call him Tata (Dad) and indeed we can be forgiven to lay claim to him in this way. Through him, activities of the African National Congress (ANC) and the fight for freedom have been personified. When we celebrate Nelson Mandela, we should not forget all those who served with him; all those who mentored him; all those who inspired him and he had aspired to emulate.

Nelson Mandela enjoyed painting. Was this somehow prophetic of the amount of work and expectations placed upon his broad shoulders? Could he really carry the aspirations of Africa and the world? Could he emerge as an example for his fellow states-men?

The idea of hand prints however intrigued him and he began to make several images. Only later did an assistant point out the iconic image inside the right hand print of the painting. In the center of Mandela’s right palm shows a clear silhouette of the African continent.” Nelson Mandela has Africa in the palm of his hand.

Africa and the world will decide; is he equal to the task? You will be the judge!


Thurston Sebotsane — Inspirational Speaker and Life Coach

Students and spending

According to reseach conducted by UNISA, South African Students spend about R28.5 billion per anum.

In this research, they UNISA idetified ‘15 Things you didnt know about student spending‘. The highest ranking one of these, in my opinion, deals with the perception that students are not equal. According to the research; ‘There is no such thing as an average student‘.

It has been found that a student will spend about R2968.00 per month and the bulk of this goes to luxury items; i.e Eating out, Clothing and footwear, Entertainment, Alcohol and Airtime. In most cases, saving is not a priority and this is mainly true about all those who get given an allowance by their parents. Again, in comparison, a few will actually engage in casual work to augment their ‘income’. On the imbalance of spending; it was found that ‘Guys are spending 15% more than girls‘. To impress; guys buy stuff for girls.

Ethnic backgrounds also play a role in the structure of spending. Black students spend more on groceries and fashion; Indian students on entertainment and jewelry; Coloured students spend more on fashion than any other ethnic group; White students spend more on petrol and alcohol.

As is my nature; I often wonder how the South African Economy would be improved by a shift in mindset and also in the culture of conspicuous consumption that has its beginnings in the youth. We have more students at Universities and colleges than what the economy can churn out in jobs. A new community of job creators rather than job seekers needs to be created.

In the ‘Knowledge Brief Compendium‘ of November 2011 by the National Youth Development Agency (NYDA); it is reported that 52.1% of those who participated in the YouthBuild project are looking to enter the work space as employees. The reality of this is that more opportunities of employment need to be created because our economy at present cannot accommodate all job seekers.

The very youth as identified in the UNISA report with their rampant spending need to change their ways. They need now to start considering spending their money on their development. They need to develop a vision of a future where their planning will yield much needed results.

The golden question is this; “What are you going to do when corporate South Africa cannot provide further jobs?

–Thurston Sebotsane (Inspirational Speaker & Life Coach)

Culture of entitlement

I am concerned about the level of failure of the majority of South African small businesses and also of professionals. I have travelled around the country and I have seen many instances where Government and private funders have invested money in aid of ‘good ideas’ and to date these companies are failing where others could not even launch.

I visited a fisheries project in Limpopo in 2009; they had been funded to the tune of about R2m through a grant, they have been given municipal land (the size of three football fields) with complete infrastructure and rental at about R500 a month. They have LED mentors on call and still they are not improving. There was concern at that time that they may have to halt operations. I was disappointed to learn that they are still blaming the provincial governement for lack of support.

This is but one of the many projects that I have seen fail all around the country. I know of people who have registered Close Corporations and are “WAITING” for government to “GIVE” them tenders. There is a culture of entitlement that is quite rife in society; it does not have space in the business world. Should this be allowed to fester, we will soon wake up to a welfare state. Should nothing be done about this, we will find five million people (just under 10% of all South Africans) being over-taxed to care for our growing population which has now gone north of fifty million. The lack of new and innovative business ideas from within our borders will choke current ventures and entry into the South African corporate space will become expensive and might deter foreign investment.

Over the last five years I have done a lot of pro-bono work around the country. Along the way I learnt what makes people do what they do and I got to understand what sets winners apart from losers. Through this and coupled with my research about the human mind; I have found a mix that I know when implemented can yield results.

I often say that the subconcious mind is like fertile soil. You will reap whatever you sow in it. Human beings are wired for success; depending on where we concentrate our energies, we will see benefits from our efforts. Negative people who believe that they can never achieve greatness will “succeed in failing”. I have developed programs and aproaches to helping people realise their inherent mechanisms to success. My approach will benefit individuals, groups, startup businesses and even executives in established concerns.

Using the mind has never been introduced at school as a subject; that is why, once in a while there emerges a maverick who turns the world on its head and becomes the script in business circles. There is no special magic that makes daring entrepreneurs successful in what they do. These are people who have developed an understanding of the mind and have learnt to use it to great effect. These results can be replicated and even improved upon by another positive minded person. We have seen how one person can run a successful enterprise and another might take over the same business and run it into the ground. So handouts are not the solution!

Fortunately developing a positive mindset can be learnt and negativity can be reversed. I have developed a program that will create an individual who understands success and knows how to achieve it. This is a programs that seeks to rid our society of the culture of entitlement.

Currently the National Planning Commission (NPC) has lauched vision 2030; successful implementation and realisation of objectives vests in the fruitful mind of what they have come to term the ‘Active Citizen’. This is one who will not wait for handouts but will go out to create opportunities on the platform that has been set by Government. I have the tools to help create the ‘Active Citizen’. Positive results are within grasp and interventions are available for all.

— Thurston Sebotsane (Inspirational Speaker and Life Coach)

Be passionate

‘If you do not have passion for your idea no one else will believe in it’ – Thurston Sebotsane

Passion flowed through my veins as I thought of and planned my motorcycle tour around all provinces of South Africa. When I started, I had never been on a motorcycle nor could I drive one.

On the 25th of June 2009 I asked a friend of mine if he knew of someone selling his motorcycle, he immediately told me that there was someone in his neighbourhood who was looking for a buyer. I then asked him to arrange that I go see the motorcycle and if I liked it, I would be willing to purchase it. I bought the motorcycle on the 26th of June in 2009; I was so determined to ride that I asked my friend to give me a crash lesson so I could be able to ride it home. He hesitated at the thought of me being thrown off and offered instead to ride it home for me.

I refused and nagged him until he relented. I got my lessons which lasted all of five minutes, I got on the motorbike, stalled twice then I was off. I took three turns in his street then I was ready to ride home.

I have since borrowed a phrase from “THE GREATEST SALESMAN IN THE WORLD” by OG MANDINO;

“Failure will never overtake me if my determination to succeed is strong enough”.

This is true in so many ways; people choose to accept failure before exhausting all avenues to avert an undesirable end. Others are afraid to take a step forward lest they stumble and fall. What if you were to take a bold step in the face of “fear of failure” and you succeed; would the fruits not be much sweeter and juicier? Would you not cherish that moment of triumph? Would your determination to succeed not be better fueled?

I had nothing to lose and a lot to gain when I spoke to the Ambassador of Germany to South Africa about THE POWER OF ONE motorcycle tour. I explained the whole concept to him and asked for contact details of the CEO of BMW South Africa.

On the same day when I got the details I drafted an email to the CEO of BMW South Africa. I detailed what I wanted to do and what I hoped to achieve. I included my proposal and did not neglect to mention how I will also benefit from all this. Words seemed to flow forth from my heart as I was typing the email. All this seemed so effortless, and then it occurred to me that I was acting with immeasurable passion and determination and this was reflected in the finished draft. I took a deep breath then pressed the send button; all was now out of my hands. I had given this my best effort.

A day after sending my request, I was then granted a meeting by the General Manager of BMW Motorrad. I arrived at a meeting with the management team of BMW Motorrad in Midrand. Before we could start, the manager of marketing communications explained to me that they could not guarantee to offer me a motorcycle. He added that he always receives requests from people wanting to tour the continent and others with different needs. He added that they do not have enough motorcycles to give to all who ask, so my presentation had to be exceptional. His statements did not deter but instead encouraged me to bring out my best at the meeting.

I had passion for the idea and that became clear, I managed to speak from the heart and that carried me through. I spoke not neglecting the main reasons why I wanted to embark on the tour and what I would be able to achieve with the help of BMW. I had only this one opportunity to create the desired impression and to sell the idea.

I exuded passion and I believed strongly in the idea. In my mind, there was no way that I could not get the message across about the good that can be brought on by BMW Motorrad partnering with me on this journey. I was also sure that my proposal was clear enough to deliver a message about benefits to BMW Motorrad.

All went well and I was successful. I later became Ambassador for BMW Motorcycles. I got to travel solo around the country on a new BMW motorcycle.

Determination is a reliable spark, when used wisely it can ignite an inferno of success. We all have it within us to succeed. Human beings are wired for success.

— Thurston Sebotsane (Inspirational Speaker and Life Coach)

Quality Learning


We can never get quality by lowering standards, this is an oxymoron at best. — Thurston Sebotsane

The ability of education to transform and empower societies cannot and should not be underrated. Education breaks the generational cycles of poverty and disease and is key to a nation’s development and prosperity. So far, my view on the current ‘qulity’ of education or lack thereof does not show a shift towards improving. Apartheid as a law, forced inferior education on blacks and this was to be a legacy. Why is it then that post the era of oppression South Africans are still holding fast to what was meant to break their spirit and to inhibit growth?

“Quality education equips and empowers boys and girls with the knowledge and skills needed to lead healthy lives, protect themselves against HIV and shape the course of their communities.” Quote from the UNICEF website

The Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) has found that the quality of education in South Africa fares badly in comparison with that of other poorer countries. Trends in international and national pupil performance showed “dismal” performance in mathematics, science and literature. It found that nine out of 10 African pupils did not achieve the most basic benchmark in reading literacy tests.

South African education system is challenged by a lot of issues:

  • Poor literacy levels at home, where parents could not “foster a love for reading and learning, or help with homework”
  • Lack of textbooks and pupil support materials
  • Teachers who lacked training

The HSRC has also noted that about 20 years ago there were 150 or so teacher training colleges. The change to the new dispensation, with the amalgamated universities and universities of technology, reduced this to 25 teacher training institutions. This then resulted in some capacity to train teachers being lost.

With all these being said and true, I am still concerned that 29% of matric students in 2011 could not achieve a 30% aggregate to afford them a pass. In lowering the standards, learners also relaxed their effort to achieve and as a result, many of them still get left behind. The culture of doing just enough to get by has proven costly to some.

“I have found that people underestimate disadvantaged children and therefore lower standards. It is also indicative of your standards here that you can pass with 30%. Businesspeople can’t operate successfully if they function with only 30% to 40%.” – Oprah Winfrey.

— Thurston Sebotsane (Inspirational Speaker & Life Coach)

Looking back

Power of one

I have undertaken a solo motorcycle tour around South Africa where I visited some schools and community projects in all provinces.

I learnt a lot on my travels and my biggest worries were further confirmed; learners do not have an idea of why they are at school. They do not plan beyond the current day. Throughout my visits, I was saddened to realise that learners do not know what they will embark on after matriculating. I came across grade 12 students, who were soon to be engaged in their final year exams, who had not planned anything for when they leave school. This lack of interest has become so endemic amongst South African learners that schools are busy producing unemployable and uninspired matriculants.

These learners need to be taught the importance of discipline and responsibility. They need to be more involved in their communities. The country needs good quality learners to be injected into our institutions of higher learning with a long term view of strengthening our economy. We will not be able to get there if the current state is allowed to go on in perpetuity. Change needs to happen and it is needed desperately. Our levels of unemployment are unacceptable; we need to help Government where we can.

I visited community projects, some of which were launched as far back as 1994 and are still at start-up stage. I noticed that no matter how good an idea one might have, without the proper training, support, inspiration, guidance and vision; these projects will never become successful. The reality is that, without help these projects will fail, further fuelling the unemployment and poverty inferno.

In my book titled “Lessons from my tour” I wrote:

“It was in Mabopane that I got to learn early on in life about how negativity formed the cornerstone of being black growing up in a township; I have now grown to detest this stark non-truth and I wish to change it. Another fallacy was that whites were superior in every way and that black people will remain subservient to the Caucasian master. Subliminally, I was getting trained how to be negative and to accept it, I was getting taught to accept that I am inferior and that I will never be able to rise to any notable heights. Adults could regularly be heard saying; “Go lela ga go thuse” (it is futile raising a concern as nobody will listen). To this day there are people who can be heard reciting this, either as a formed habit or as a way to escape facing the challenge to succeed.

 I acknowledge that apartheid never touched me physically, but it seems that the damage done to me psychologically is as harmful; this from the inferior quality of education to decisions made about what I was good for. Though no longer a reality, the ghost of the apartheid state continues to haunt people; it will take a positive mindset to be freed from this prison of negativity.

 In my adulthood, I have had to learn to fight against the indoctrination of negative thoughts and I have had to ask myself:

  • Why do people choose to be negative?
  • How did a minority win over and control the majority?
  • Why are people filled with self pity?
  • What is the root cause of a culture of entitlement?
  • Why do we not take charge of our own destiny?
  • Why do we keep blaming others for our failures
  • Can all this be reversed or corrected?

Granted; apartheid was designed to divide, conquer and rule through fear. It was engineered to make other races to feel inferior. It was meant to imbue the combined strength of a united society. It was suppose to leave a lasting legacy of self loathing and helplessness.

The first democratic elections in South Africa ended Apartheid rule but its effects can still be felt. Though deep seeded, this negativity can still be reversed and people can be empowered to reach for their dreams and to succeed. It all starts with accepting that the shackles are psychological and that it will take the mind to unlock them. A radical mind does not just happen, it has to be built. Like you were trained not to believe in your abilities, you can also learn to rise to the challenge of achieving greatness.”

— Thurston Sebotsane: “Lessons from my tour”

When I embarked on this initiative, to travel the country, which I aptly termed: THE POWER OF ONE; I wanted people to witness how, when an individual chooses to make a difference, he will be able to move others to action and how that action will carry a reciprocal and contagious effect.

Anyone can change and it is possible to succeed when you put your mind and heart in it.

— Thurston Sebotsane (Inspirational Speaker & Life Coach)

Planning for Thandi’s future

Thandi’s chances in life growing up as a woman in South Africa shows why the National Planning Commission is needed. Visit the NPC Web Pages at

The National Planning Commission is a new initiative of government. Chaired by the Minister in The Presidency for National Planning, the NPC is responsible for developing a long term vision and strategic plan for South Africa. The process of developing this strategic plan will include discussion and engagement across our country and also provide opportunities for people to come forward with ideas and suggestions. The plan will be considered by Cabinet. The Commission will also advise on cross-cutting issues that impact on South Africa’s long term development.


Take charge

“The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, the education, the money, than circumstances, than failure, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company… a church… a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice everyday regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past… we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude. I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% of how I react to it. And so it is with you… we are in charge of our Attitudes.” C Swindoll