Teachers have lost the plot

2011-04-02 11:11

The great drama that unfolded last month when a mob of teachers appeared in court to support Meadowlands High headmaster, Moss Senye, was the stuff of soap operas.

Given the catastrophic results they “midwife” each year, you would think that Soweto’s teachers would recognise that education in this great township is in deep crisis, and that if they really had to organise a mass meeting, it would be to fix the crisis.

 Senye had already raised eyebrows when he lashed out at Gauteng education MEC Barbara Creecy, calling her a satanist – but it was the actions of his South African Democratic Teachers’ Union (Sadtu) colleagues that suggested the true scale of the rot in teaching.

Senye is not just a teacher and headmaster of the once-famous school, he is also the regional Sadtu chairperson and therefore by all accounts a community leader.

A headmaster used to be the steady hand that guided a school, providing leadership to the teachers, acting as a bridge to the community and a father figure to the children.

But Senye and his ilk seem to have abandoned their noble role.

What has happened to the generation of great teachers such as the great TW Kambule who inspired generations of his learners to learn, giving their all, to achieve greatness in various fields.

It has been shown time and again that teachers make the biggest difference in the outcome of education?– much more than the curriculum or even the facilities at the school.

There is a dire need for someone to emerge from the teaching community who can promote the best interests of teachers, while ensuring that they rise to meet the enormous challenge that our education faces.

What was truly alarming about seeing some 100 Sadtu members abandon their classrooms to engage in mob-style intimidation of a 17-year-old student, who had laid a charge of assault against Senye, was that it suggested the priorities of these teachers was totally out of kilter.

They were significantly more concerned with showing solidarity with one of their members as he faced damning charges, than teaching their students.

Someone was needed to nudge them to find more time to educate the thousands of children who rely on them to get an education. But something else was going on in that assembly.

The troubling thing was that these members of Sadtu thought they could get away with this kind of mob action.

The time has come for their principals to rein them in and remind them of their responsibility to teach schoolchildren.

Sadtu is one of trade union federation Cosatu’s largest affiliates and Cosatu is well known for loudly calling to order those who cross the moral line, but its silence on this incident is out of character.

It seems that some of these teachers are so out of touch with the stark reality they face that instead of going out of their way to find urgent solutions to the collapse of education in Soweto, they choose to worsen the situation.

Traditionally exam results are seen to reflect the ability of students to learn, but the events surrounding Meadowlands High must force us to ask if children have not been placed in the hands of the wrong teachers?

Perhaps more attention should be paid to how caring the teachers are about the kids they teach.

Or do they put themselves and their union first.

The irresponsible action of these teachers who descended on the Meadowlands Magistrates Court reveals the extent to which they have abandoned their roles as role models and leaders.

It is not difficult to understand why they cannot possibly inspire anyone to achieve within the classroom, as their only concern is to gang up against anyone who moves on one of their members.

No one questions the right of teachers to use the labour laws of the country to advance their cause as employees, but they cannot hijack these rights to abuse them as a tool to intimidate students.

Once they start to behave like mobsters it is impossible for them to successfully recover the moral authority that is inextricably linked to the role of teaching.

It takes courage for a schoolchild to lay charges against his headmaster, and the collective show of force by these Sadtu bullies is intended to intimidate not just this student, but also others who may consider taking similar action.

The boy’s mother, Nomsa Mabaso, was justifiably shocked at the intimidation that led to her and her son being escorted by police for their own protection.

The demonstrators’ appearance at the court was not just some spontaneous coincidence, but must have taken considerable ­­coordination and communication.

If only these teachers would bring as much passion to their work there may not be the kind of crisis that we see reflected year in and year out in disastrous matric results.

Given the gravity of the situation, with some schools recording a 100% failure rate, this really is the time when even the most selfish teacher should ditch all else of lesser importance and focus on teaching, teaching and yet more teaching.

That’s the only way the young will be able to build a foundation for the skills necessary to make it in our knowledge-based society.

At the moment, it looks like the teachers who have lost the plot are the ones who need to be taught a lesson.

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