Members of Academia;
Leaders of Civil Society;
Ladies and Gentlemen;
The union, in marriage, between Comrade Graeme Bloch and his dear wife, Comrade Cheryl Carolus came about in the heat of the struggle against apartheid oppression, and for peace freedom and a better life for all. It was a union based on solid ground of affection, which endured the most severe of trials, tribulations and harassment. No amount of painful afflictions could undermine the bond between these two remarkable comrades. Hence the love and dedication to Graeme by Cheryl has been abiding, exemplary, and wonderful to witness!
To the bereaved families of Bloch and Carolus, we convey our heartfelt sympathies and we ask that you take solace in the knowledge that we share your pain and condole with you.
Comrade Graeme was not only extremely studious but also practical, for he understood only too well that knowledge is verified in experience.
He had infinite confidence and abiding faith in humanity. Fidel Castro taught us that “revolutionaries do not struggle for honour or glory, or to occupy a place in history”. And so, Graeme occupied, occupies, and will always occupy a great place in history precisely because that was not important to him, because he was always absolutely selfless. And so, his life is sure to become an example to posterity.
Throughout the past few days since his passing, we have read and listened to the glowing tributes from Graeme’s comrades, fellow academics, former students, and just about all those with the fullest knowledge of his attributes. All of the tributes are true and well deserved.
However, there is no doubt that he would have been embarrassed by such attention because he was truly humble and modest in his demeanour.
He was the embodiment of all that was noble and glorious in the progressive movement. He was an upright, principled, and industrious cadre who dedicated his life to the production of knowledge and the development of education. He was an independent intellectual who would not yield before the onslaught of reaction.
Graeme lived by the following maxim: “The great aim of education is not knowledge, but action.”
He knew what to look for and what to do.
Education thus becomes the tipping point that determines the trajectory of one’s life and choices. The consequences of a nation’s education system has the influence to determine who may struggle to survive from those who have the tools to thrive.
As the youth prepare to take forward the struggle of rebuilding our nation, Comrade Graeme believed that young people should be afforded the right to anchor their efforts in intellectualism.
However, almost three decades after democracy, many youth are still struggling to access education, and there are many signs that the struggle is far from over. In addition, the legacy of racial discrimination in the education system persists, a constant issue that Comrade Graeme fought against his entire career. Characterised by poor outcomes, overcrowded classrooms, inadequate facilities and learning materials, these challenges still loom over us for all these years.
Many schools that serve our poorest communities rely on poorly maintained infrastructure and a serious lack of teaching resources, and hungry children are forced to play and learn in less than adequate environments. This is an education system that mirrors the apartheid years – shortcomings in a system that continue to create barriers to the project of social cohesion.
In many respects, Apartheid and colonial knowledge systems hold a power that is still present with us today. The so-called success of apartheid is evident in the legacy it left behind: who has access to education and who does not.
Corruption, gender-based violence, crime, divisions along historical lines of race and class, and an overwhelming amount of suffering, continue to haunt us today. Coupled with the global crises of disease and climate change, these failures of society and its leaders, actively increase already disproportionate levels of poverty and affect at-risk populations the most.
Comrade Graeme recognised that ending poverty, inequality and other deprivations, go hand-in-hand with integrated strategies that improve education, justice, and economic growth. He advocated for education and youth development to be linked to the institutional frameworks of capacity building and inclusivity.
In his paper, “The liberatory discourse of education: Education and Discourse in South Africa”, Comrade Graeme states that:
“Education is seen as releasing potential, and allowing individual and social advance.
“Yet, sociologically, it can be seen how education systems can and do contribute to reinforcing social differentiation, locking poor communities in inequality and even reproducing racial inequalities – certainly reinforcing class and gender differentiation – against constitutional guarantees of equality and human rights imperatives.”
As we lay to rest this man of steel, we must guard against the conceit and complacency, mendacity and false claims; taking a seat amongst the scornful; negative ideas and energies; factionalism and gossip; political intolerance and ethnic chauvinism as well as greed and corruption. Beware the wedge driver.
Comrade Graeme never applied to others the standards that he refused to accept for himself. He was always in the frontline “where manhood and consciousness is tested. The only place to bury persecutions and burden of ages. The only place to declare names immortal.”
May his soul rest in eternal peace. Long live the undying spirit of Comrade Graeme, for as uncle J.B. Marks asserted “to live in hearts we leave behind is not to die.”
I thank you.