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Jonathan Jansen’s We Need to Act Launched with Gareth Cliff at Exclusive Books Hyde Park

Jonathan Jansen

Gareth Cliff and Jonathan Jansen We Need to ActLeaving Bloemfontein in the early hours of the morning, beloved commentator on the state of South Africa, Prof Jonathan Jansen ended a long day of talks in Johannesburg with a book launch at Exclusive Books Hyde Park. On Saturday 7 September Louise Grantham of Bookstorm welcomed the excited crowds at the celebration of Jansen’s latest offering, We Need to Act. Grantham said that we sometimes forget how special South Africans are and that Prof Jansen is a champion of all the positive stories that don’t necessarily make the headlines.

“I’m here today because I’ve been a big fan of Prof Jansen for a long time,” well-known radio personality Gareth Cliff said in his introduction, “and I still think that he has the best ideas in helping young people become fruitful and make a contribution.” He went on to express his admiration for the Vice Chancellor of the University of the Free State’s “sense of humour, limitless energy, tremendously effective management of a large educational institution while still managing to travel the world and churn out delightful books for us to read.” It’s a book that will make you laugh, it will make you cry and it’s full of real South African stories we can all relate to, Cliff said. The book consists of some of Prof Jansen’s columns as previously published in The Times, and focuses on education and the social realities of South African societies.

Cliff confirmed that all the proceeds of the book will go No Student Hungry, a charity organisation founded by Prof Jansen’s wife, Mrs Grace Jansen. “It’s a great organisation, helping students who really have nothing else to be assured of at least one meal a day … and it makes that much of a difference.” Support the book, Cliff joked, it will make you all feel like philanthropists for a day. To the crowd’s delight, Cliff gently teased the former Dean, referring to Jansen’s first book in the series:

“First there was We Need to Talk, now we have We Need to Act. What comes next, Prof? We need to break up?” Jansen merely gave a rumbling belly laugh and shrugged his shoulders.

Jansen in turn welcomed a host of fellow authors to the event: Eusebius McKaiser, Shelagh Forster and “of course Gareth Cliff.” Launching straight into one of the wonderful anecdotes contained in the book, Jansen candidly told of one young student who came to see him about an unusual problem: stray cats on campus. “Usually, students come to see me about financial aid, tough exams or interracial love affairs. But this … this was a new one!” Jansen applauded the student for choosing to solve an immediate problem, saying that people like her inspire him – people who ask what can we do now, how can we make it better? “It’s a wonderful antidote to apathy.”

The crowd was alternatively in stitches or compelled to deep thought as Jansen discussed serious issues facing South Africa with a light touch, using compelling arguments and real-life examples of the power of individual action. “My mother used to say to me: my klong (son), if you get paid to teach, you show up and teach!”

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