Discipline is the only way – Senye

2011-05-07 16:56

Controversial Soweto high school ­principal and teachers’ union leader Moss Senye believes that township schools will never improve if ill-discipline is not tackled effectively.

Senye, who goes to court this week to face charges that he allegedly assaulted a 17-year-old learner at Meadowlands High School, said teachers felt ­disempowered.

He said many did not know how to deal with ill-disciplined learners, saying measures like detention do not compel students to work.

“At times, our teachers do not know how else to address the issue and sometimes go beyond the legal boundaries in an attempt to make learners do their school work,” said Senye.

Already a high-profile member of the South African Democratic Teachers’ ­Union (Sadtu), Senye became infamous when his school was among the worst performing in Soweto in 2008.

But he pointed out that his school had shown “big improvements” since he joined in 2004.

He said: “On my arrival at Meadowlands High School in 2004 the school was written off but we managed to ­improve learners’ results. Even though we are still not yet on the required 80%, our marks are ­improving.”

The statistics, however, tell a different story. The school had scored 50% the year before he arrived at Meadowlands.

It increased to 70.3% in 2004 and then declined steadily for four years (64.6% in 2005, 64.7% in 2006, 48.7% in 2007 and 29.6% in 2008), before ­recovering to 54% and 57.2% in 2009 and last year respectively.

He said that unlike some schools, where only a few exceptional learners were promoted from Grade 11 to Grade 12, Meadowlands High allowed all pupils who passed the class to take a shot at matric.

This created the false impression that these schools were better than ­others. He would, however, not say which schools these were.

Senye said discipline was still a serious issue at Soweto schools, with drinking and gambling two common problems.

“I normally make rounds at the school and when I see any wrongdoing by my learners I immediately involve their parents. I am the first one to arrive and the last to leave the school,” he said.

According to him, sometimes parents themselves asked teachers ­to administer corporal punishment when their ­children were out of line.

Senye said: “Through cooperation with the community we have managed to instill discipline at our school.”

As for his court hearing on Wednesday, he said that he did not encourage educators to abandon classes to support him, as was the case at his last court ­appearance on March 14.

Asked why he had labelled Gauteng ­education MEC Barbara Creecy a ­“satanist” for implementing the “no-work, no-pay” policy, he said despite the “friction” between them they were now committed to working together to turn things around in Soweto.

Sadtu’s Gauteng provincial structure later apologised on Senye’s behalf.

Senye attributed Sadtu’s influence in Soweto to the fact that they were a close-knit family and that proximity made it easy to mobilise quickly.

Senye (51), who was born in the Kimberley township of Galeshewe, has been a Sadtu member since 1990.

The married father of four is an influential member of the ANC in the Joe Slovo branch in Dobsonville, where he lives.

“I was an Umkhonto weSizwe operative in Lusaka (in the 1980s), using the nom de guerre Torch Tlhomelang, and I am well entrenched in the movement.”

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