Lessons from medical science : Symptoms

I have realised that my best lessons happen when I am in spaces away from my domain.

It is in book launches, book fairs, hanging around with friends from social sciences. What is normal to them is cutting edge ideas for me. I bring it back and implement.

This was recently reinforced by Richard Miller, the President of Olin College. He stressed that innovation that will change the world depends on :

  1. Feasibility (Engineering and Science)
  2. Viability (Business and Economics)
  3. Desirability (Psychology, Arts, Humanities, etc)

Anyway back to medical science.

I had the privilege of spending an afternoon with Dr Mazwi Mabika, a friend from my undergraduate time at University of Witwatersrand.

I was busy sharing that a lot of people our age are able to start things. However the obstacle in my view is lack of commitment. To hold on in the difficult times. To be fully immersed in their new venture. To give it their all to see it to life. I proposed a few ideas on how I think we could remove this obstacle.

In a strong and commanding tone, he was like no Rendani, you are dealing with the symptom here and not the root cause of lack of commitment. To only remove lack of commitment is an area doesnt not remove it in other areas.

I have fallen to this trap a few times and only for the root cause to manifest in another form of a symptom.

Dr Mazwi went ahead to share his work experience during his early days in the field. Shortly after leaving University. It was of dealing decisively with a symptom under the believe that it is a real issue and be confident that it is all over. He even received applause and only for his patient to make it back to the hospital in a worse state.

This expression sums it up:

A swollen leg doesn’t mean they is anything wrong with the leg. It is only a manifestation of something bigger. In most cases it could some kind of malfunction of the heart. A pill to wipe away the pain and the lump is available, but this does not really deal with the heart which is the likely cause of the swollen leg.

As a leader who desires a better South Africa and Africa. I was left paralyzed. What does this mean for our social issues?

Did we even begin to understand the following national events:

  1. Fees Must fall
  2. Service delivery protests or any other workers protest.
  3. Vuwani crisis
  4. Marikana massacre.
  5. Pretoria protest and many more

This is also begs the question of whether or not we really understand our social ills:

  1. Poverty
  2. Unemployment
  3. Inequality

I don’t know if we do. What I do know is that if we don’t then, as leaders we are failing to conceptualize correct solutions which would have a lasting impact.

We will continue to give technology gadgets to our learners when all they need is descent class rooms and quality teachers. We will continue to pump more money to education while not adapting it to suit the current social and economic needs of the land.

We will continue to talk negatively of teenage pregnancy, substance abuse, etc while not taking the time to fully under the real issues. We will continue to copy international models and come home implement without handling interface matters.

We will continue to have more talks. Forgetting that talk is cheap. It is only when we implement that we have an opportunity to solve problems.

Our solutions will remain in the air and problems will be on the rise.

To deal with symptoms is tempting. They pave the illusion that the problem is on the surface. And we rush in to be heroic. But only temporarily.

As leaders of this generation, we will have to dig deep to deal with the real issues and provide permanent or at least long-lasting solutions.

By Rendani Mamphiswana.

Takalani Foundation Team

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