Lack of Leadership by Minister Motshekga
Equal Education (EE) expresses its strongest concern at the lack of leadership being shown by Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga in the devastating wake of the teachers’ strike.
In her statement on 9 September she announced that afternoon classes, weekend classes, and holiday classes would have “serious implications”, but had no action plan. On 13 September it was announced that “September school holidays will proceed as scheduled”. There is urgency in the rhetoric, but none in the action.
It also shows the difficulty, it must be said, of running an education system in which 9 MEC’s have almost as much power as the Minister. The Minister merely announced that the provinces “have put measures in place” for learning centres, additional learning materials, spring schools and camps. In many provinces this is not happening properly, or reaching those who need it most. The lack of a national, coordinated, communicated plan is a serious weakness.
The Minister must follow through on her statement on 9 September that the national department would “directly assist in those districts where schools have consistently underperformed … with good learning and revision materials and … the expert guidance of subject specialists.”
The Minister did announce that the SABC would play a role through revision broadcasts. A survey of EE members shows that 6am revision programmes are at the wrong time, because children are leaving for school. Only 10% of our members are able to watch at that time.
Once again the Minister has proven that if learners use violence and hooliganism, as COSAS has done, they get multiple meetings with her, whereas EE members who have mobilized in their thousands for over a year have yet to meet the Minister. Nevertheless, we commend the Minister for not buckling to hooliganism.
Situation in the Western Cape
Although, the strike affected a minority of schools in the Western Cape, the reality is that more than 70 schools from the townships were closed down. These learners, the poorest in the province, are in a desperate situation; they are receiving an education of a far lower standard than their counterparts in suburban public schools. Class sizes are almost double in these poor schools because the allocation of teacher posts, by government, discriminates in favour of wealthy public schools. Such realities contribute to teacher strikes.
In Khayelitsha, where schools closed for the entire three weeks of the strike, and the 2009 matric pass rate was 50,5%, the District plans to offer extra classes in the afternoons and during the holidays; make community halls available for supervised evening study; and provide printed learning and revision materials to all learners affected by the strike.
We support all of these plans and call on the MEC to ensure that they are realized with money for transport, safety and additional learning materials. We commend Western Cape Superintendent General Penny Vinjevold for briefing EE Leadership Committee members, who are taking information back to their schools.
Learners are unprepared for prelim exams, but these have generally started and must continue. These are necessary to prepare for the final examinations. Continuous Assessment makes up 25% of the final mark in matric; as part of this prelims end up contributing 5 – 7% to the final mark. The COSAS demand for 25% free marks is therefore senseless. As an organisation of young people we identify with the anger that COSAS feel, but their demands and hooligan actions will not fix education in South Africa and we cannot support them. Disruption of schooling or exams at schools where EE is organized will not be tolerated. We extend our since condolences to family of Nontsikelelo Nokela.
EE is writing to all universities to ensure that applicants are not prejudiced by poor prelim results. We have already been given assurances by UCT. We call on all universities to ignore the prelim results from poor schools and do more to bridge the gap financially and academically for poor students.
The responsibility of SADTU, NAPTOSA and the teachers
EE supported the teachers throughout the strike in the media and in demonstrations. We have always placed the responsibility for the drawn-out nature of the strike, based on the constitutional right to education, mainly on government’s shoulders. Now government must lead the recovery and find money to pay for it, including for teachers. We also recognise that a crisis in education existed before the strike, and that the teachers, like the learners, are victims of this.
However, now we expect more from the teachers. They must avail themselves, even as volunteers, to teach longer hours, on weekends and during the holidays. Teachers must take this opportunity to stand shoulder to shoulder with the learners, as the learners of EE have done for them. This is an opportunity to win the public over by a show of public service, sacrifice and commitment. Middle-class teachers must make contact with township schools and offer support.
Equal Education Demands
- National plan to teach until 5pm each day, on weekends and through the holidays, which should be cancelled. Priority must be given to rural and township schools.
- Proper communication to learners, teachers and parents to publicise the areas and districts in which tuition and extra classes will be provided. Transport must be provided.
- Provision of revision materials to all matrics. Only 20% of EE members surveyed were able to access and print from the Department’s website.
- SABC must shift its TV and radio programmes from 6am in the morning to the evening when children are back from school. The schedule must be widely advertised.
- Teachers must give their very best and go beyond the call of duty.
- We call on all South Africans to rally to these demands, and to continuously raise them in the media and with government representatives.