I read with interest the article on Township Education and was impressed by the efforts and sacrifices being made by parents to ensure a good education for their children. These are examples of parents who got their priorities right and despite the hardship and personal sacrifices required put the well being of their children first. They are to be commended. It is such a pity that “Township Education is not good enough” (The Star – Monday 25th June) as the article quite rightly points out. But having read the article I stopped and asked myself why after so long is this the case, whose fault is it?
The feedback to the previous weeks by Prof., Diane Grayston confirmed my thinking in some areas but opened my eyes anew to the education needs of the country and the various role players involved. I realised in reading this that there is so much can be done if each group involved would just take some responsibility.
Our education system and the shortfalls currently being experienced can be addressed if all parties come to the table. As Prof., Grayston points out there is a need for various parties to assume responsibility and take ownership of the situation as has been done in many overseas countries. Finland she points out “places great value on teachers and teaching is a competitive profession. Teachers are well qualified and understand children, learning and their disciplines. Teachers are expected to be developing themselves continuously, have good working conditions and are paid a good salary” – unlike South Africa. “Unions work with teachers and the government to ensure children have the best opportunities to learn and to grow”
Considering the content of both articles I came to the conclusion there are 4 parties in particular who need to be proactive in addressing educational issues – the Department of education, the teachers, the learners and the parents. No one group can make any difference without the active involvement of the others.
The Department of education must first and foremost make plans to ensure all problems such as under staffing, lack of resources, poor equipment, lack of toilet facilities, shortage of teachers, remuneration of teachers and lack of text books are addressed today to ensure next year starts with a much improved situation and 2014 is 100% right. There is no point in building new schools when the existing ones are falling down. If we cannot provide text books to existing schools how are we going to provide them to new schools?
Teachers must agree to work and to concentrate their efforts on the needs of their learners – the children they are responsible for. Teachers must accept their calling as a vocation, one that demands total commitment and dedication. They should agree not to strike and to strive to work with parents, governing bodies and unions for the good of the children. They must decide to abide by the rules and be in class when they should be. They must earn the respect of their learners and develop a trust relationship with them. Teachers and the teaching profession have lost credibility. Now is the time for re-building and earning the respect they so well deserve. Teachers must be seen to be leaders in the community and work with parents, governing bodies and learners to improve the schools in which they work and make them centres of excellence. This requires dedication and commitment.
The learners must realise they are still children and must learn to behave as such. They must realise that only when they are contributing meaningfully to society can make demands.
Learners must be in school every day learning and striving to improve their lot in life. They should not be permitted or encouraged to participate in demonstrations and strikes. Learners must do something for themselves and must stop complaining about lack of facilities and service delivery. They must decide as a group what they can do to improve the image of their school and to better their circumstances. If they decide to make their school the best then it can and will be the best – but they must make it happen.
Learners are able bodied people and have abilities to repair windows, repair broken desks, fix leaking roofs, paint walls and so on. They should work together and make improving their school an after hours project. The learners must realise they have a responsibility to help in the rebuilding of schools. They should take pride in themselves and their school and make things happen.
Parents must put the attitude of entitlement behind them and contribute something towards the education of their children. It does not have to be a lot – every little helps. Many parents are doing so because they have realised the government cannot continue to do so. Financially it is getting out of control. It is the responsibility of parents to make sure their children go to school every day.
If governing bodies and parents were to agree on a small contribution from each parent then perhaps it would make some difference in terms of upkeep, improved facilities and possibly even paying or subsidising more teachers. I know this is not easy on minimum wages but every R10 rand contributed is better than nothing.
In times of need and on occasions such as the world cup we achieve what appears to be impossible. We can make sacrifices when it suits us and we can go without when we want something special. What can be more important and more special than the ongoing education and empowerment of our children? Now is the time for action by all.