Sat, 14 Dec 2019

Unfortunately, education is one of the biggest failures of the ANC government of the last 25 years. With hindsight, history will judge that during this period the lack of quality education to be an even greater tragedy compared to the raided state owned enterprises and corrupt municipal governance. It is a tragedy that the governing party simply does not get it right to ensure quality education for all students in our country, and in failing to do so the hope for a better future is stolen from thousands of students.

Quality education for all learners is not only the strongest weapon to remove disparity between people, but is a in the battle against unemployment, crime and poor economic growth. The tragic reality is that poor people and their children are the biggest victims of cadre deployment, corruption, incompetence and state capture. How many schools could have been built with money that simply disappeared in a well of corruption? How many hungry learners could get daily during the break got a warm plate of food with the milliards stolen. How many long drops could have been replaced with safe flush toilets, and how many school libraries could have been built and equipped with books? How is it possible that notwithstanding the fact that each president since 1994 promised to eradicate unsafe schools, learners still drown in long drops?

What does our education look like?

It is important to remember that in our country there is 23 289 public schools with approximately 400 000 teachers. There are excellent schools with often highly qualified but not appreciated teachers that work incredibly hard, and the outstanding academic results of the learners are proof of their teachers inputs. On the other hand there are lazy, unqualified and irresponsible teachers, and their learners struggle to pass without the necessary help, and leave the school system early.

The majority of teachers in our country do not possess the necessary subject knowledge of the subjects that they teach. As an example of this 79% of grade 6 maths teachers did not achieved 60% in a grade 6/7 maths test.

An investigation of the Department of Basic Education (2017) showed that only 37% of schools each year complete all the work in the curriculum. Teachers in Richards Bay deal with only 10% of the yearly syllabus, and in the district of Modimolle only 40% of the annual work is completed. Out of the seven districts investigated it was only Vhembe in Limpopo that covered 50% of the grade 9 maths curriculum. The other districts did between 28% and 42% of the work. On average 41 000 teachers are absent from their work every day.

Research by the Counsel for Human Science Research found that teachers in well-functional schools teach for 6.5 hours per day versus the 3.5 hours taught by teachers in dysfunctional schools.

A national survey (PIRLS 2016) showed that 78% of grade four learners in SA cannot read any language with comprehension. According to the 2015-TIMMS study (Trends in International Mathematics and Science) only 61% of all grade five learners in our schools can do basic maths. Half of the primary schools in SA can be described as cognitive wastelands.

It is therefore not surprising that for each 100 school beginners, only about 60 reach matric, 37 will pass matric, and of them 12 learners will go to university. Only 4 students will obtain a degree within 6 years. This terrible passing rate is ascribed mostly to the insufficient foundation that is laid in primary school. Urgent attention is needed at the training of primary school teachers and it is long overdue that the government acknowledges that the closure of teacher colleges was a tragic mistake.

The biggest elephant in the education lounge is the political influence of the COSATU affiliated teacher's union SADOU that in reality is in control of six of the nine education departments. . All the deputy director generals in the Department of Basic Education are members of SADOU. The task team of the minister under the leadership of John Volmink (2016) concluded in its report that schools throughout South Africa are in reality controlled by this teachers union. The report exposes the enormous corruption, nepotism and found that the union amongst others sold teaching and headmaster positions for cash and life stock. In. In the North West as an example, 85% of senior positions were filled by cadres of SADOU as reward for their loyalty to the union, regardless of their skill levels or qualifications. The union often call for strikes resulting in the halt of teaching at schools that least can afford such interruptions. The methods that SADOU uses to get rid of unwanted persons are marches, demonstrations, strikes, character assassination, threats and serious intimidation.

A serious warning is contained in the report against the dangers of the close relationship between SADOU and the ANC. : "The commitment of a Teacher Union to one single political Party is both dangerous and inappropriate. This means that those educators who join that Union are bound to that Party. And the fortunes of the educational system become dependent on the fortunes of a political process."

Not only are the recommendations of the Volmink report to call the education union to order mostly ignored, President Ramaphosa also repeatedly expressed his support for and faith in SADOU. He encouraged them in his speech at their meeting in Kempton Park to continue to be a militant, progressive and revolutionary union that promote the interest of its members. In his speach at the KwaZulu-Natal branch Ramaphosa unequivocally gave them his support: "We continue to look to Sadtu for leadership... Our faith remains unshakable in Sadtu to play a decisive role in returning the ANC to its founding values of service and selflessness... We will not surrender the revolution to factionalism and division."

It is of the utmost importance that education in our country be de-politicise so that appointments of the best teachers to the benefit of the learners and not to that of loyal cadres of SADOU and the ANC occur. Responsibility and accountability of teachers should once again become a reality in our schools, regardless of their political affiliations.

Will Ramaphosa now, after the election, have the moral courage to call to order the approximately 254 000 members of this teachers union? Will there be a Zondo commission of inquiry of teachers that stole the future of learners? Will loyalty to the ANC party stay more important in the teaching profession than integrity? Will solidarity to the ANC weigh more that the wellbeing and the future of the highest percentage of the learners in our country that are disempowered by second rated schools?

We dare not ignore these questions any longer, because our country can simply no longer afford to lose another generation of children.

Source: Nic Spaull

- Jeanette de Klerk-Luttig is affiliated with the Office for Moral Leadership at Faculty of Theology at Stellenbosch University.

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