Sadtu must take the lead on education

2012-04-10 00:00

SADTU must lead us and be the change it wants to see.

We can throw as much money at the education problem as we wish but the fact of the matter is that we are dealing with a value system that has to change.

I am not an expert on teaching methods but I know what creates good teachers. I am quite surprised at some of the ideas going about with regard to making teachers more effective. However, I think we cannot take a simplistic view on what makes teachers effective.

My parents were both dedicated teachers in Zimbabwe and I also am a beneficiary of good teachers from primary to high school and up to varsity. One thing that I clearly remember was the dedication to the profession by all my teachers. They were all so focused and their work was their passion. Of course, one cannot teach teachers how to be passionate. This came as an automatic response to realising that our only escape from poverty is a good education.

The teachers knew it and so did the pupils, and so you had all parties involved in the education process doing their best. It was never about the school infrastructure, nor was it about laboratories or the salaries and perks that the teachers received.

Our teachers did not care much where we were attending classes since their main concern was to get into our heads and equip us for the future. They never complained much and could have even taught us under trees as long as they had willing pupils.

The interesting fact also was that teachers had a healthy competition among themselves and made sure that their produce was of high quality. It was a matter of personal pride.

Critical was the respect that we, the pupils, gave our teachers. Our teachers were our

moral guides and were expected to behave with the utmost integrity, and they did.

I remember we had to address our teachers as “Sir” or

“Madam” and had to stand up if they were passing wherever we happened to be. We respected them and they lived up to that respect.

The then Ian Smith government understood the role of teachers in building stable communities. Teachers had decent subsidised accommodation and were provided with all the tools and training they needed. In other words the theory was that you cannot expect a teacher to live in squalor and still produce quality pupils.

My opinion on Sadtu’s rejection of performance standards is that Sadtu is correct. How can you measure the performance of

pupils only by looking at the teacher? There is much more involved in an effective teacher- pupil relationship and I am sure our teachers know this.

The issue is clear. There is a lack of leadership in the Department of Education so I do not see why we must continue to look for leadership where it does not exist.

I encourage Sadtu to stop blaming the system for the problems in education, but for it to lead us in the transformation of education.

Sadtu can organise extra teacher training, it can get sponsorship to refurbish schools and involve local communities, and it can begin to lead us in the

creation of a new value system that prioritises education. It can get professionals involved to teach over weekends, and much more.

In my opinion, Sadtu has all the power to make the necessary changes it wants to see.

We can throw as much money at the problem as we want, but the fact of the matter is that we are now dealing with a value system. Value systems change through good leadership and a stable community life. A stable community life must start with service delivery by our municipalities to our communities and the creation of decent neighbourhoods.

The education issue is inextricably linked to community values and their quality of life. Our approach must therefore be holistic if we are to create sustainable social systems. Let Sadtu lead us.

Education is the only hope that millions of South Africans have and should really be a key performance area for our provincial premiers.

Sadtu’s jobs must be on the line if it does not deliver. It hasn’t. —

• Vince Musewe is an economist. He is promoting new thinking about Africa under the topic “New African Minds”. You can read his philosophies about change by going to vincemuse or e-mail him at or @vincemusewe on Twitter.

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