Time for Teachers to Take Centre Stage

2015-06-04 12:11

Being a teacher in South Africa is the most difficult job around. You do not have to look no further than our township schools to know what is this in reference to. From disheartening working conditions to parents who have shifted the collective responsibility of raising responsible future citizens of the world to teachers; to constantly changing education policies; to salaries that are incomparable to the work that they do; to learner ill-discipline; to teachers who have sex with learners. But do you know why it is so easy to mention these demotivating factors? South African media taught me. If you want to be famous in South Africa, do this only one thing: say something controversial or insult people.

As a product of township schools, I can confidently say teachers who wake up every morning with hope to change some parent’s child’s life despite often discouraging working conditions are my heroes and heroines. It is unfortunate that in South Africa it is easy to know more about controversial figures through media, print and online, more than we know of teachers who work in dire conditions and still manage to produce young and upcoming shakers and movers of the world like Ace Moloi, Leqoalane Letsika, Setenane Matsimela, Ntokozo Qwabe, Sinoxolo Sem, Johannes Mosifane, Adric Makume, Pontsho Mofokeng and many more. We know more about who has divorced who in the often superficial world of the so-called celebrities than we know about a teacher who sacrifices her or his monthly salary just so that a financially short-sleeved child can apply for tertiary education, get extra tuition for Mathematics or Sesotho or just so that their learner can get a school uniform.

Since the dawn of democracy, there have been countless movie productions that depict our townships as hubs of criminality instead of holistic excellence. One can mention Yizo-Yizo and Tsotsi  as typical examples. When all of this happens, I always ask myself this: when will there finally be movies that depict township school teachers who manage to rise above their circumstances to help produce change agents in their communities? When do we start to have our own Freedom Writers? The only time we know of the existence of a teacher- a township school teacher to be precise- is when they are caught having sex with or sending a seductive message to a learner. The only image we have of a township school is that of pit toilets and dilapidated facilities; nothing else. The journalists should apply the same effort that they exert to hunt for the stories that further tarnish my beloved teaching profession to feature teachers who continue to be an inspiration to millions of learners who often do not have role models in our society.

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