SUNDAY TIMES - So many questions: DG of Basic Education, Bobby Soobrayan
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Sunday Times STLive By Chris Barron, 2011-07-24 01:31:58.0

So many questions: DG of Basic Education, Bobby Soobrayan


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While the SA Democratic Union of Teachers hosts a conference on education, two reports have referred to its baleful influence on education. Chris Barron asked the DG of Basic Education, Bobby Soobrayan ...

That's assuming Sadtu is calling the shots, which is not true.

I think it is more accurate to talk about poor compliance with policies as opposed to union action. Because it is not really the national union that is doing these things. It's about pockets, where not only teachers are not performing, but sometimes the managers themselves are not prepared to act on those teachers. Certainly there are problems with teachers, but there are also huge problems with managers failing to perform their managerial responsibilities.

That's the conclusion of a researcher. You've got to go to the report, look at the empirical evidence, and you'll see it confirms what I'm saying. We have, with the unions, the Quality of Learning and Teaching Campaign, and I'm not making excuses for unions, but I'm saying let's distinguish between responsible teachers and irresponsible teachers.

Sadtu has said, for the record, that they will not support any teacher who is being charged with indiscipline. And I don't have evidence that Sadtu has blocked our actions to try teachers for ill-discipline.

It's difficult for us to do that sometimes because of conditions in the school, but often because my managers are not doing what they're supposed to do. They're not applying the laws as they could, they're not using the instruments available to them.

Exactly. We're not using the full might of policy that is available to us to discipline teachers. The solution is that we're going to have performance agreements with principals and competency assessments. We're doing the same with circuit managers and district managers. We want to hold them accountable, so that a teacher who is absent for five days without good cause is acted upon. And those who are responsible for acting, if they don't act, then we act on that. We're also accelerating a campaign to mobilise communities. Because where communities play a role in the school, then teacher indiscipline is something that can't go unpunished. The principal is supported when he wants to take action and forced to take action where he refuses to.

We are. And where it exists, we're seeing it playing out in the results immediately. We want to make this a national campaign, and we've had meetings with the private sector also where many corporates are adopting schools. And this is showing results.

You're focusing on a conclusion which people have drawn based on a fairly detailed argument and based on empirical evidence. That conclusion - you're reading into it - you should rather look at the empirical reasons for the conclusions.

Absolutely.

Let's be fair now. All the unions are present at the conference. You pick on Sadtu. You're being extremely unfair.

We've got a very strong message that no teacher should be out of school during teaching time. In this conference it is being adhered to.

Definitely, we want to move in that direction.

I'm not aware of the details of this thing.

I'm not aware of the details of it. I can't go on "publicised", I need to study the details. If I went by your conclusions, I'd be in big trouble.