March, 2013 by Sirius Centauri
The Secondary School Improvement Programme (SSIP) is an initiative launched by the Gauteng Department of Education to help learners in grades 10, 11 and 12 improve their marks as they approach the end of their schooling careers. R140 million has been set aside to support 300 000 participating learners from around the province to attend extra classes during weekends and public holidays. SSIP focuses on challenging subjects such as Maths and Science and although it has resulted in a significant improvement in marks over the past two years, a threat by some teachers to not work over-time could derail this progress.
February 26 – Basic Education Minister, Angie Motshekga announces plans to have a teacher log-in biometric system installed in schools to monitor and possibly curb teacher absenteeism. On March 5, teacher union SADTU calls for her resignation, expressing “loss of confidence” in her leadership. The following is a quote from the statement issued by the union.
It is clear that the minister has run out of ideas on how to turn around the DBE and has even resorted to publicity stunts such as the announcement of the biometric registration system without even having the decency expected of a minister to engage the major stakeholders.
While there’s little surprise that SADTU has called for the resignation of Motshekga with immediate effect considering that their grievances are very likely echoed by many South Africans, it is very worrying to note that this call to action is made in the name of quality education. Two days after its call, SADTU released this statement for what it’s called the Promotion of Quality Public Education Campaign. I find this all too contradictory. How does the union hope to help implement a good education while it is becoming increasingly notorious for resorting to strike action as the primary way to voice its grievances?
Is it possible that the minister is using teachers as a scapegoat for the discernible cracks within the education department? Possibly. Is the proposed biometric system – the major provocation of the threat to strike on over-time – an infringement of teachers’ rights? It’d say no because both public service and private sector employees use similar systems to check in at work on a daily basis. How are teachers any different? Most importantly, how is this striking culture affecting our learners?
For children across South Africa, a teacher strike means losing out on valuable lessons. For Gauteng learners it also means giving up a few paid-for privileges to get extra classes when they are most needed. Gauteng MEC for Education Barbara Creecy has been visiting schools trying to drum up support from parents to allow their children to attend these free extra lessons. Unfortunately, as long as some teachers fail to put learners first, the little hope there is for children to get the kind of extra attention they deserve is shattered while departmental politics rages on.