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Wed Sep 28 08:53:35 SAST 2016

State education in South Africa - Suffer the children: iLIVE

A passionate South African principal | 06 January, 2015 11:31
File photo.
Image by: Gallo Images/Thinkstock

Little progress in South African State school education – who should take the blame?

Let the truth be told; our country’s education leadership is a dismal, dysfunctional result of, amongst other things:  nepotism, fraud, unions and other “rubbish” influenced by lies, cheating, cover-ups and open laziness. Some might say that I am just one of “those” negative South Africans lacking the UBUNTU spirit but that could not be further from the truth. 

If you were to delve into my family history, education and school leadership involvement for the past 27 years, 18 of those years have been as a principal in a school leading awesome students in a small independent Limpopo school.

We are facing a drastic education disaster in our country. The poor education standards, so prevalent in a large majority of state schools, has very little to do with the curriculum which has undergone numerous changes since 1994 but still produces a sub-standard outcome.

I am sure Angie Motshekga will praise teachers and students for the 2014 Grade 12 results again when we are likely to be presented with a country wide national average improvement in results. 

What a victory for the ANC leadership! There will probably be the normal cheering in the press room, top achievers will be there, money will be awarded to these great academic students, who have worked hard, but at the end of next year the truth of the matter will be revealed; close to 80% of students from state school education failing first year university miserably, let alone the fact that almost 25% students who entered Grade 1, would not have reached Grade 12 (an estimate based on present statistics).

The recent announcement of the Grade 9 ANA mathematics results, which was close to 10% average, is a grim reminder that education at the most crucial stage before entering the FET phase is a mess. All that Angie Motshekga could say, as reported in a news article, was that she was disappointed.

If my school produced a 10% average I would not be announcing to the world that I was disappointed. As a principal I would be devastated and hold my head in shame for not dealing with the teachers teaching in my school. Very few children will, nation-wide, achieve 10% for Maths if the teacher is teaching!

Wake up education South Africa! The teachers in the poor-performing schools and provinces, besides the leaders in the education department, must shoulder the blame. Those teachers who are not in the classroom teaching, those who fudge marks, who do not turn up at school for days, who beat the children, as well as teachers who do not teach even when they are at school, they are to blame! 

The principals, who do nothing because they are guilty of the same failings or are at endless departmental meetings, often during the school day, they are to blame. Education officials who do not take action, they are to blame.

I have only mentioned a few of the situations which produce the poor results. Many of our state schools are being mismanaged because the teachers and leaders in these schools are being allowed to continue with their dismal example and performance. Curriculum is not the problem!

Our school teaches many students from the previously disadvantaged areas. 99% of our school students travel from villages, townships and homes experiencing the same economic challenges, similar family issues, similar community challenges and backgrounds with the same peer group pressures as students in state schools.

Why does our school obtain a 96%-100% Grade 12 success rate every year, writing the notoriously harder independent school examinations (same NCS certificate pass requirements), while the schools around us obtain low final matric averages in comparison, some as low as 30%.

Our province’s schools even produce some 0% matric pass rates. How can that be possible if teachers are teaching? What is of greater concern is that students do not just suddenly fail in matric, the rot starts much earlier when students are in the primary phase of their education.

Our country’s unions which dictate the terms of education, officials who do not attend to the mess and teachers and principals who make little effort to improve their schools for the sake of our children, the future leaders of our country, must shelve blame. 

Our children are being failed by unprofessional teachers and leaders who lack any form of commitment and dedication to the future of our country. A whole generation of unemployable youth are being produced, not because they are incapable but because they are not being nurtured by professionalism in the classroom and the leaders who employed these teachers.

The ANA assessments, which have been around for four years has simply highlighted the disaster of teaching irregularities. Tests of this nature do not test the child’s ability in their subject. How can they if they have not even been taught correctly and in many cases have not even been taught?

The intervention which Angie Motshekga mentions, which is sceptical in the first instance, should be directed towards teachers in the classroom. Stop wasting money on these tests and use this huge sum of money to place inspectors back in schools who can discipline, even recommend firing, teachers who are not doing their work, not attending classes, faking teaching, etc… I call them the KFC- BMW- UNISA teachers: in the staffroom during lessons eating, looking for better salaries, through strike action to buy their status symbol, and furthering their own studies during class time instead of teaching their students. It is amazing how many teachers are involved in further studies, yet their own students are failing?

My teachers are awesome; paid less than government teachers, no pension, no housing and no medical aid because we are small self-funded school; yet still building a nation through DEDICATION, COMMITMENT AND LOVE FOR EDUCATION AND THEIR STUDENTS. My teachers are in class; they prepare work, continually mark tests, give feedback and attend to the curriculum while offering further support to students when needed.

They spend hours outside of school supporting students with extra work, taking time to build the future, often at their own expense. Our students come back every year with great success stories from their tertiary studies. Our students have attained countless awards in their tertiary studies and have gone on to secure great jobs, a reality of the teacher in the classroom, in spite of the curriculum or their home circumstances.

Isn’t it time for our education leaders to admit that student success, not the present curriculum, salary and socio-economic surroundings, are a direct reflection of teachers commitment to the students they teach. Whether we are in Limpopo or in a posh suburb in Cape Town, PASSION, COMMITMENT and DEDICATION of the teacher overcomes the lack of many things, even textbooks.

I could carry on expounding on the obvious but have touched on enough to get a barrage of attacks. Let’s face it - education leaders including their employees are to blame, not the curriculum. Education leaders in South Africa, I call on you to instil pride and commitment in your teachers to teach; or remove them from their posts. 

Yes, fire these under-performing teachers and leaders! If you cannot discipline your teachers and leaders, whom you have employed, then you should re-consider your positions and hand over leadership to those who will.

South Africa’s future demands a drastic change.

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