Varsity graduates aren’t well trained, ‘dumped in schools’ – teachers’ union

Blade Nzimande. Picture: Nico Gous
Blade Nzimande. Picture: Nico Gous

At least three teaching colleges have been reopened by Higher Education and Training Minister Blade Nzimande since plans were first mooted five years ago, but the country’s biggest teachers’ union believes it’s not enough.

Nzimande announced in his 2012-2013 budget speech that his department would reopen teaching colleges in Mpumalanga, KwaZulu-Natal and Eastern Cape.

However, the South African Democratic Teachers’ Union wants the government to speed up the process and reopen colleges across the country in a move to improve the quality of teachers.

Sadtu general secretary Mugwena Maluleke said universities were not the right institutions to produce the calibre of teachers required.

“Teachers need rigorous training. Universities deal with theory. Teachers could continue to be involved there but for research and accreditation to maintain high standards. We need radical training of teachers to provide them with necessary skills.”

Currently teachers from universities were “dumped in schools” but were not trained to practically deal with real situations in the classroom, Maluleke said.

He said existing infrastructure in the form of new community teaching centres and Technical and Vocational Education and Training colleges could be used as facilities to train teachers who would be able to do in-service training in nearby schools.

Maluleke reiterated the call for the reopening of teaching colleges when he tabled the proposal at the education labour relations indaba last month.

The indaba was attended by high profile education officials nationally and across provinces.

Unions also formed part of the deliberations.

Professor Linda Chisholm from the University of Johannesburg’s Centre for Education Rights and Transformation said the topic had come up repeatedly.

“So there probably is a need for a proper investigation into the feasibility and possibilities.”

She said many colleges had indeed secured good standards through their relationships with universities that played a role in moderating their examinations.

Generally, Chisholm said, colleges that did not have relationships with universities had severe quality problems.

South Africa’s incorporation of teacher education into higher education institutions has followed an international trend, she said.

So far, the department has reopened a former Ndebele College of Education facility in Mpumalanga as a campus of the new University of Mpumalanga.

Department spokesperson Madikwe Mabotha said teacher education programmes were offered on campus.

“The campus has been refurbished and additional infrastructure, including student housing, has been built.”

Additional facilities have been incorporated to universities.

These included:

  • A former College of Education site in the Eastern Cape that has been incorporated into the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, where teacher education operations are offered at the Missionvale campus; and
  • The former Indumiso College of Education, now a campus of the Durban University of Technology, was identified as a site to expand teacher education offerings and a project has been initiated there to increase capacity. Substantial infrastructure development has taken place on that campus, which is being developed for teacher education, nursing and engineering.

Mabotha said the former uMzimkhulu College of Education in KwaZulu-Natal, the college site that had been identified for consideration for teacher education, was now developed as Technical and Vocational Education and Training college campus.

He said subsequent work showed that there were no other viable former teacher college sites available in KwaZulu-Natal that were not already in use.

In other provinces, however, plans were also afoot to have teaching colleges.

In the Eastern Cape, the University of Fort Hare has expressed a strong interest in establishing the former Cape College of Education site as a teacher education campus of the university, Mabotha said.

“The Eastern Cape Department of Public Works is the custodian of the site. Currently a range of government departments are located at the site, including a district office for the education department. This possibility of utilising this site for teacher education through the university is still being explored,” he said.

Mabotha said the department had also explored the possibility of the former Giyani College of Education site in Limpopo Province.

A feasibility study indicated support for this and proposed a range of areas that could be focus areas for the facility, Mabotha said.

“Currently a process is under way for developing a full business plan and identifying the resources and funding that would be necessary to ensure the campuses’ success and sustainability. This is still a work in progress. It must be stressed that the site can only be redeveloped for higher education if funding is earmarked for this purpose,” he said.

Mabotha said the new Sol Plaatjie University was also offering teacher education programmes.

Asked how much was allocated for the reopening of colleges annually, Mabotha said there were currently no funds set aside.

“The campuses that have been developed with the support of the department are part of specific universities and the operational costs are within their remit. New funds would have to be sought if new campuses are to be opened,” he said.

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