'The injustice of forcing English schools to accept too many children': Teacher calls out the 'unfair divide'

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"It will be almost impossible to ensure social distancing". (Getty Images)
"It will be almost impossible to ensure social distancing". (Getty Images)

A local teacher who wishes to remain anonymous has shared her anger and resentment regarding overcrowding in schools and the "intense unfair divide between government and private schools".

Read her open letter below. 

I have been in education for 30 years.

Even though there have been ups and downs, I have remained in public education even when many colleagues left for greener pastures in private education. 

I have always believed in serving the youth of my country and have always believed every child needs the best teacher possible even if they don't have the money. I have always defended the Department of Basic Education (DBE) when friends and family have had nothing good to say about the education system in SA

Even during this time, I have empathised with the enormity of their decisions and the need to rescue academics. But I see the intense unfair divide between government and private schools.

The unfairness of the DBE angers me, allowing Afrikaans schools to do as they please to remain cultural institutions. This unfairness has meant that our schools have been forced to accept too many children over the years - children who could have been fairly accommodated. 

Also read: 'Does anyone care?': Teacher writes fiery open letter in response to looming full capacity classes

The privileged minority

I stand by my earlier comment: Every child has the right to be taught by good, dedicated teachers at a school in their area.

Therefore, despite the injustice of forcing English schools to accept too many children while Afrikaans schools continue teaching the privileged minority, I have been immensely proud of my school and all the staff who treat learners as learners with no racial bias. 

However, with the onset of this pandemic and the knowledge that the DBE wants to bring all children back into the classroom, I am again livid at the mess the unfairness mentioned above has caused in many schools and the lack of safety it causes for many learners and teachers. 

Some Afrikaans schools around us can easily and safely bring back all pupils because they normally only have 30 kids in a class. They have never been expected to take in more. On the other hand, we will have to put 40-42 learners into our classes. 

It will be almost impossible to ensure social distancing, and we will have to buy single desks at our own expense for 480 learners, costing approximately R200 000. 

Even then, it will be almost impossible to move in those classes. We are still 'fortunate' compared to other colleagues who will have to make a plan with 60 learners in a class. 

Also see: Education interrupted: Time to talk about the future of our children

Stretched to the limit

Myself and my staff are stretched to the limit. We come in seriously early to screen, supervise and ensure Covid-19 safety, taking one break instead of 2, standing with learners after school until parents fetch them so that they are not unsupervised on the pavement. 

All this while being available on WhatsApp to support parents and learners in the afternoon and weekends, going home to their own families and doing home tasks quickly so that they can work and mark and prepare for another 2-3 hours before bed. 

Most of my staff are on sleeping tablets and anti-depressants already - but no one knows or would care even if they were made aware of it. 

Why? Because we all need to save academics in an impossible situation. We try to be positive, but we know we are just 'playing school' - cramming info into kids heads in a week, providing work for them to do at home, knowing most of it won't get done. 

Why? Because we still expect district visits and criticisms from people who are not working side by side with us in our schools. Where are our unions?

The DBE wants all procedures to run as normal

Most of us only get 3-4 hours' sleep a night anyway just to support our kids on rotation. Where are our unions fighting for us to be vaccinated first before we are back jammed packed with all our learners?

Many of us are at risk ourselves or are coming home to high-risk family members. We must socially distance ourselves at church, shops, but who cares what happens in the classroom - let's just get the curriculum done. 

There is no time for staff who have lost family members to Covid-19 to mourn their loss - nope, you just put a smile on your face and fake it until the day you won't be able to make it. 

The pressure on principals and deputy's is beyond insane. We must manage all of the above with a confident smile on our faces and just roll with the punches, providing a safe environment for our staff, learners, and parents.

Who is taking the time to ensure our physical, emotional, and mental safety? Sadly, no one.


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