Basic plans to reach big goals

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at
Sun May 17 16:38:14 UTC 2009

Basic plans to reach big goals
 Published:May 17, 2009


‘We want parents and learners to take responsibility for their
education and to take a stand when their rights are being violated.
They should report incompetent teachers and those who loaf around’

Related Content
Listen to an edited version of our interview with Education Minister
Angie Motshekga

The country’s tough-talking new minister of basic education gives
Prega Govender a snapshot of significant changes to come The new
minister of basic education, Angie Motshekga, is promising a radical
overhaul of the education system. This will include a review of
legislation which, in some cases, has hampered much-needed change.
Motshekga confirmed that her department was closely scrutinising the
South African School’s Act, especially “areas where we think the act
itself makes it difficult for us to function the way we are supposed
to function”.

Some of the major issues to be addressed include:

Training grade R, 1, 2 and 3 trainee teachers at Further Education and
Training colleges so that universities can be freed up to focus on
maths and science teachers and those who want to teach senior pupils;

Allowing only pupils who have completed their matric certificate to
study at government-funded FET colleges;

Compensating schools that exempt large numbers of poor pupils from
paying fees with money from provincial education departments;

Capping school fees in the long term to prevent wealthy schools from
excluding poor pupils on the grounds of poverty; and

Reducing the size of classes so that teachers are able to provide more
individual attention to pupils.

Another major challenge involves examining regulations that govern the
employment of teachers so that red tape around the firing of
inefficient teachers can be removed.

“It takes ages to deal with incompetence and, by the time you prove
it, it’s the end of the year and children have suffered,” Motshekga

“The Employment of Educators’ Act has to be much more clearer, defined
and sharp. There’s a whole process we have to go through to declare a
person incompetent.”

Motshekga also said the state sometimes could not intervene in schools
because governing bodies had so much power.

“They can decide who they employ, which means schools can remain
lily-white, which is what is happening. There are cases where the
population of the school is black, but the whole teaching complement
is white.”

She said one of her priorities was trying to work differently with the

“Up to now, we have been working as separate systems. We want to have
one single system, one motorcar moving in the same direction.”

The former MEC for education in Gauteng was adamant that teachers and
principals who had relationships with pupils would be given the boot.

“It’s a no-no. In Gauteng, we used to expel them every day. Sometimes,
you would find a person who has given 40 years of his life to the
profession, who had sex with a child.”

On her long-term plan to cap fees, Motshekga said there was “quite a
legitimate fear” that some governing bodies could use fees to exclude
poor pupils.

“As a department, there must be a level at which we can cap fees,” she said.

Motshekga also wants to encourage provincial education departments to
build strong partnerships with communities so they can become “the
eyes and ears of the department”.

She also said learner representative councils and parent structures
had to be strengthened because teachers feared parents more than the
department. “Your best allies in education are the parents and
learners in terms of making sure things run well.

“We want parents and learners to take responsibility for their
education and to take a stand when their rights are being violated.
They should report incompetent teachers and those who loaf around.”

On the issue of single-medium schools, Motshekga said the schools’
language policy should be in line with national priorities and the
kind of society the government was trying to build. Her comments
follow a Supreme Court of Appeal judgment in March, which upheld an
appeal by Hoërskool Ermelo in Mpumalanga and its governing body
against the provincial education department. The court ordered that
the department’s decision to withdraw the function of the governing
body to determine the language policy of the school be set aside.

Paul Colditz, chief executive of the Federation of Governing Bodies of
SA Schools, said existing government policy gives parents the right to
choose the language of instruction for pupils.

Clive Roos, executive consultant of the Governing Body Foundation,
said although it was within the minister’s right to review
legislation, he expected any minister to consult widely, including
with governing body organisations, before making pronouncements about
their powers.

“At the moment the legal position is very, very clear. The competence
to set the language policy of the school is very clearly given to
school governing bodies.” — govenderp at

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