Quality is what counts

2012-07-21 19:12

An NGO is fighting for better schools, writes Lucas Ledwaba

The township of Tembisa, on Gauteng’s East Rand, recently played host to a march that surprisingly didn’t receive as much publicity as is often the case when, for instance, trade unions take to the streets.

It’s a rather mind-boggling scenario, since the march was about the state of education in South Africa.

The non-governmental organisation Equal Education (EE) was there to demand the immediate finalisation of binding minimum norms and standards for school infrastructure and the appointment of a judicial commission of inquiry into the tender process relating to textbooks and workbooks.

EE is involved in a number of campaigns aimed at improving the standard of education in the country.

One of its projects is the one school, one library, one librarian campaign, which aims to force government to provide each school with a fully equipped and staffed library.

Other projects include the broken windows campaign, textbooks campaign and the minimum norms and standards campaign.

In March, EE filed an application order in the Bhisho High Court to try and force Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga to prescribe minimum norms and standards for school infrastructure. The matter is still pending.

EE is an affiliate of Section 27, which has been championing the legal battle for the provision and delivery of textbooks in Limpopo.

Last week, EE held its first national congress in Johannesburg. Delegates agreed that the country’s education system is in crisis. But is it?

“A youth with a matric certificate and one without have the same prospects at certain levels of the economy. There’s no connection between the 12 years of schooling and economic prospects after schooling.

There has to be a fundamental change to the quality of what happens during those years,” says Doron Isaacs, EE’s deputy general secretary, who became involved in community work as a volunteer in the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC).

His work in Western Cape townships took him to schools where he used to sit in class taking notes and observing challenges facing pupils, teachers and parents.

Equal Education was born following advice from TAC founder Zackie Achmat.

“For me as a white person with a privileged background, it was the first time that I really felt I had overcome my blindness,” Isaacs says about his work in the townships.

EE says the lack of infrastructure in schools means the majority of learners, particularly in townships and villages, are still forced to learn in overcrowded classrooms, without textbooks, laboratories, libraries, sports facilities and properly qualified teachers.

This state of affairs, they argue, is what led to the current high unemployment figures and poverty among the youth.

Isaacs says while access to education has improved since 1994, the quality of education does not adequately prepare pupils for life after high school.

“During the last decade of apartheid, the state tried to change (access to education) slightly. But there was no emphasis on quality.

“School was used only as a mechanism to keep youths off the streets. We think the present government still regards school (the same way),” he says.

He cites mud schools as a clear example of the technical skills shortage that stems from poor quality education.

“Why are there still more than 400 mud schools in the Eastern Cape?

The money is there. The provincial government only spent 28% of their infrastructure budget.

One of the reasons is there aren’t enough engineers and our education system is still not producing those skills,” he says.

EE believes the issue of demoralised and poorly trained teachers needs urgent attention.

“Teachers regard themselves as victims. Their classes are too big, there are not enough books and they work in generally poor conditions.
They feel unsupported; that often, change (constant changes in curriculum) is dumped on them,” says Isaacs.

One of the goals set out in government’s action plan 2014 includes attracting a new group of young, motivated and appropriately trained teachers each year.

The plan also sets out to improve the professionalism, teaching skills, subject knowledge and computer literacy of teachers.

Isaacs says: “The majority of teachers work in impossible conditions and I would like to challenge politicians to work where there is no running water, no electricity and 60 learners crammed into a classroom.”

He says while social movements like EE can make a difference, parent participation is also crucial.

“Parents do not understand their role in relation to schools. They think it’s just a place where you take your child and just leave it there.

There needs to be greater participation from parents.”

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.