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My Children! My Africa! The themes

by mickey.geldenhuys

A theme is an important idea or concept underlying the action and all the other elements of the play. Themes in this play include a wide range of issues including ones that are personal, social and moral or ethical. This podcast discuses some themes that arise from My Children! My Africa!

To listen to the podcast, visit the X-kit Achieve channel on iono.fm(link is external)

My Children! My Africa! The themes

Welcome to Pearson South Africa’s podcast series on the Grade 12 Study Guide X- kit Achieve My Children! My Africa! In this podcast we will talk about themes. The play asks some searching questions. For example:

What are the possibilities of friendship between people who are separated by unjust laws and who have very different life experiences? Despite the barriers which separate them, Thami and Isabel have a lot in common and a friendship develops between them. They respect each other’s contributions in the debate and they enjoy being in the quiz team together. They both love Mr M. Although they interpret his death differently, they listen to each other’s views.

How can we change an unjust system? Through reasoned debate or through violent revolution? Mr M says that words permit peaceful negotiation, whereas violence leads to destruction and suffering. He says, “Man...thinks with words...they can get inside the heads of the people in those armoured cars...”. His hero, Confucius, teaches that justice can be achieved through words. However the events of the play show that words by themselves are not enough. In the same way, action alone, without words and reason, leads to violence and injustice. Both words and actions need to work together.

Mr M claims that he is changing the inferior Bantu Education system from within. Thami disagrees. He says that Mr M taught him to whisper: now others teach him how to shout! He agrees with the Comrades who demand ‘Liberation before education’.

Mr M believes in obeying the law. However the Comrades argue that apartheid laws are unjust. Thami denies that Mr M’s killing is “murder”: he says that Mr M “betrayed us and our fight for Freedom. Five men are in detention because of Mr M...” Isabel says that Mr M did not do it for personal enrichment or because he was a police spy: he wanted to save the students from violence in the township. He made a mistake but did not deserve such a terrible fate. Both Thami and Isabel argue with passionate conviction: it is hard to know whose view to accept.

A final theme is: how do we make our lives useful? Isabel says at the end of the play: “You gave me a little lecture once about wasted lives ... how much you didn't want that to happen to Thami and me... . I am going to try my best to make my life useful in the way that yours was.” She wants to serve others. Hers is the voice of hope ending the play on a positive note.

That’s all we have time for now. But please note, there is more about the play’s themes on pages 30 to 36 in your X-kit Achieve Study Guide. Thanks for listening and good luck for your studies.

Grade 12