Saturday, October 20, 2012

Education in the Eastern Cape

Notes from The Herald, Port Elizabeth.Newspaper, October 15, 2012, article: “70% pass rate ‘pie in sky’--Eastern Cape Education Department’s matric target unrealistic due to host of challenges.”

With just a week to go until the start of matrix exams, the Eastern Cape Education Department’s ambitious goal of a 70% matric pass rate this year has been slated as ‘pie in the sky.’  Last year, the Eastern Cape was the poorest-performing province with an alarming 58.1% pass rate for high school seniors, and education experts said this week a vast improvement in the pass mark was unrealistic.

But provincial education spokesman Mali Mtiman said projects such as winter school and other interventions would help matrics achieve last year’s national pass rate of 70.2%.  However, education specialists pegged a shortage of math and science teachers, under-qualified teachers in rural areas, the non-payment of temporary teachers, teacher absenteeism, book shortages and weak departmental administration as this year’s obstacles to a healthy performance by the class of 2012.

Federation Governing Bodies of South African Schools chief executive officer said there was “Absolutely no way” the province would achieve a 70% pass rate saying pupils were operating in an “unstable environment.” He blamed the provincial department’s weak administration and non-payment of some teachers as the main problem.  “If they get to 60% it will be a miracle,” he said.

“The very, very weak administration in education in the province is the most important thing against us.  Teachers, principals and school governing members are always anticipating the next disaster. . . If a teacher who does not know if she will be paid or if she will be transferred because she is an excess teacher, is in front of a class, this negativity will affect pupil performance.”

. . . “If the first 11 years of school are a mess, you can’t expect a 70% pass rate in Grade 12.”. . .  Professional development is part of any profession.  A lot of these teachers were trained before the end of apartheid and are badly trained. . . children arrive at high school under-prepared. . . They don’t know the basics of grammar and some can’t even spell, so I think the focus should be on improving primary school teaching, because that’s the foundation.”

Grade 12 pupils at some schools had to endure textbook shortages in almost all subjects.  Jabavu High School principal Bonginkosi Gotyana said, “Students are unpredictable.  We ask them to attend after-school lessons but they run away.”  He did not want to comment on the Education Department.  “We are not relying on the department [anymore].  We have done our utmost to attain what we can with the little we get from the department.

Principal Llewelyn Tomelii said Duncan Village school had a shortage of Grade 12 math and science teachers, with teachers in these subjects in lower grades having to fill the gaps.  This means pupils in other grades suffer and it also overloads the teachers, who have an average of 50 students per class. . .

Provincial manager Abe Smith said, “The main problem is that teachers were not appointed and for long periods some children had no teacher in front of the class.  Also some textbooks were not delivered on time.  Our education department is one of the worst.  To achieve would mean that teachers would have to be in front of the classroom seven hours a day, five days a week, but in some areas teachers are only teaching for an average of three hours a day because of high absenteeism, especially on Mondays and pay day,” he said.

Van Vuuren also mentioned the shortage of teachers in critical subjects like math, science and languages in rural areas, book shortages and the appointment of incompetent principals as factors for a poor pass rate.  COPE provincial education spokeswoman Angela Woodhall said while schools with full education departments and good community support could reach a 70% pass rate. . . those with severe challenges of poor infrastructure, furniture and staff shortages may not even reach 58%.

The Herald, Tuesday, October 15, 2012 “Zuma must admit crisis – Some schools worse off than during apartheid.”

President Jacob Zuma must admit South Africa’s education system is in crisis, University of the Free State vice-chancellor professor Jonathan Jensen said yesterday.  He said some schools were worse off today than they were during apartheid.  He was backed by several school principals who met for a conference in Nelson Mandela Bay.  They agreed that things were only getting worse.

Principal Elroy Bosman, who has taught for 37 years, said: “Apartheid was wrong but  education [in townships and northern area schools] is now definitely worse than back in apartheid particularly in the Eastern Cape.  It’s a damn crisis.. .”  He said that the number of pupils writing matrix exams had dropped since 2008.  He said many matrics registered for the exams but then failed to show up to write them.

We have this nice development plan but it just makes assumptions  . . it lacks clarity.  The plan fails to address the plethora of problems  the grass-roots level.  People in South Africa are led by sentiment, . .  Students are going to school but are not being educated. . .  Bowman also attacked math literacy in high schools and the declining number of pupils opting to study mathematics.

Jensen said “The terrible education system had left South Africa in serious trouble.  We need to get people to believe in high-quality education or we are screwed.  If we do not get this right why bother.”  To admit to the crisis is one thing, they [the government ] must remedy it with a solution.  As proof of the crisis more than 90% of the school’s 243 Grade 8 pupils could not read or write properly.  Everybody is concerned about a good matric pass rate, but they need to look at the problems at primary schools.

Human resources was also a problem at the school:  “We can’t promote subjects like physical science because we have been without a teacher for six years.  We only have one qualified teacher to teach math and accounting for grates 10 to 12."

                                                 Education in South Africa
                                                           By T. Stokoe

     Our role in South Africa is to promote education and encourage young adults to enroll in classes leading to a diploma, certificate, license, or degree for a particular employable career.
There are challenges facing such accomplishment:

(1) Not all students have the academic qualifications to enroll in specific career oriented programs. Education in South Africa is plagued with problems.  For example: In the past academic standards were higher than today.  A passing grade of 60% in all subjects was mandatory. As the quality of education declined, so did the passing requirement. So many students could not meet the standard that it was continually lowered until today it is at 35%.
In order to graduate from high school a student must have at least 35/100 in all subject finals in order to graduate. Even with this low standard only 70.2% of the nation’s high school seniors graduate.  In the Eastern Cape, the eastern sector of the country, only 58.1% graduated in 2011.
     Why the terrible state in the public school system?  There are an inexhaustible number of problems:
#  Extremely inept government administration of education.
#  Corruption throughout the entire education system
#: Lack of education funds.
#  Siphoning of available funds by corrupt government and education administrative officials.
#  Lack of education responsibility and accountability.
#  Lack of qualified administrators and teachers.
#  Prevalence of the “rip off the system” attitude throughout the country.
#  Lack of schools.
#  Lack of committed and dedicated administrators and teachers many of whom don’t even show       up to work. Why?
#  Some have not received a pay check for as much as six months. Why?
#  Weak, under funded school districts and individual schools.  No money available. What little        money allocated by government legislation seldom reaches its destination.  Is stolen en route          down the pipeline.
#  Shortage of teachers and over crowded classrooms. Some classes have 50 plus students. With        so many in a class chaos can reign, discipline is minimal even non existent, and qualitative             teaching is very difficult. Consequently, learning is low.
#  A good number of teachers, qualified or partially qualified, quit the profession each year due to      the ongoing plague of problems.
#  Lack of textbooks and teaching materials. There are classes that never receive textbooks                 during a school year though money was supposedly allocated for them.
#  Many school buildings are in poor physical condition though there are some that are in                   good condition.
#  There are excellent principals and qualified teachers, but in the overall spectrum of the              education system, here are just not enough.
#  Quality education is lacking at all levels grade 1-12.
#  Students who did not graduate either quit high school or academically failed. A few could not be       bothered showing up for finals.
#  When after-school enrichment classes are made available, students don’t show up. Obviously, there is a lack of incentive, motivation, desire and commitment among some students.
(2)   With regard to post high school education, and beside the lack of qualifying academics to be admitted into vocational, technical, or university programs, there are more problems:

# One of them is in the outlying rural settlements there are no post high school institutions.  Those living in such communities desirous of higher education are either at an educational dead end, or need to move to a town where such learning is available.  Many cannot afford to move; they just don’t have the resources.

# Transport is a major problem in this country. There is a lack of it and there are those who can’t afford it where it exists. Why?  They don’t have a job and an income. National or private bus systems linking all cities, towns, and villages throughout the country, do not exist. There is a taxi system to a certain degree. Those who cannot afford transportation to and from schools of higher learning are stuck.    

# Money to pay for tuition, fees, and books is a problem. A student just can’t afford it and those that can are few and far between.  Academically, some may qualify for a bursary which can pay for tuition, books, and fees as well as transportation, room and board.  Those lucky few can move on to excellent jobs and salaries upon graduation.  Likewise, those who can afford to pay their own way.  But the vast majority can not do it.

# Employment is a major problem.  The unemployment rate in South Africa is staggering. Obtaining a job is a big challenge especially where certain skills, knowledge, academics, and certification is required.  Employment opportunities in rural areas are limited.  Even urban areas have their shortages and having skills and certification is not necessarily a guarantee for employment.

# Strikes have had a crippling effect upon the economy of the country.Where miners have obtained an 800% wage increase, other copy cat strikes have occurred in industry and commerce, national economic stability in the future is further jeopardized. Prices will rise all around and supply and demand can be “helter skelter”.

# Corruption, rampant and unabated, infiltrates from top to bottom in practically all phases of
government, enterprise, commerce, industry, manufacturing, education - you name it, it’s there.

# Private schools catering to the affordable provide the best education in the country. Standards are high with excellent administrators and teachers. There is ample funding, textbooks, materials and supplies, excellent curriculum, programs, activities, smaller classes averaging in the twenties to low thirties, and more well-rounded educated students due to receiving qualitative education throughout grades 1-12.

    They are disciplined maintained schools, organized and structured to meet the best demands of qualitative education. They function with authority, integrity, and honor having high expectations of students, their performance, and accomplishment.  There is consistency in the education system where qualitative, effective learning is accomplished. These private schools provide the highest caliber of education and are the exemplary-model schools of qualitative education in South Africa.    

The Herald, Thursday, October 18, 2012.  Opinion & analysis section article, “Basic school facilities needed.” by Precillar Moyo

In 2010 Newsweek ranked South Africa’s education system 97th out of 100 countries surveyed.  Interesting the country ranked 22nd for “economic dynamism”, but our poor education scored dragged us down to 82nd overall.

We can debate and question the value of these international rankings, but we know that the challenges faced by South African education are numerous.  A significant proportion of pupils come from non-supportive homes, the school environment lacks discipline, classrooms are overcrowded, many teachers lack skills and some lack professionalism, and the delivery of textbooks and workbooks is inefficient. . .

Indeed Equal Education is preparing campaigns on these other important question. . . But as I engage more with the infrastructure campaign I found it difficult to disentangle basic infrastructure neatly from school attendance, teacher morale, and underlying pursuit for the provision of quality education and equality in the education system. . .

Very few people will dispute the fact that a classroom with an appropriate teacher to pupil ratio and basic facilities will be better for teaching and learning than the rural classroom for the poorest among us.  However, this is not the reality for many poor schools in the country.

One example is Mwezeni Senior Primary School, a school in the Eastern Cape whose mud structures were damaged by storms early last year.  The school, alongside Equal Education is an applicant in the court case, to be heard on November 20, on the implications of inadequate infrastructure.

The school caters to 295 children from Grade R. To Grade 6.  Since the damage more than a year ago, 220 children have been taught outside.  During the rainy season these children simply do not attend school.  The remaining classrooms are overcrowded, roofs leak, are dark because of a lack of windows and there is a severe shortage of furniture.  Teacher moral has been affected and pupil absenteeism has increased.

Some 25 schools have filed affidavits in support of Equal education.  One is Samson Senior Primary School near Libode in the Eastern Cape.  The school does not have running water and is reliant on seasonal rain for water collected in tanks.  The nearest tap to the school is 5km away.  The lack of water affects pupils’ concentration, especially during the height of summer.

Milente Secondary School in Limpopo also does not have running water and often has to sacrifice the purchase of educational resources to pay for water delivery.

Sanitation is another question raised by the case.  At Lehlaba Primary School in Limpopo one pit latrine is used by 90 pupils.  Iqonce High School in King William’s Town has 254 pupils who share two toilets.  The impact is felt particularly by girls in puberty.  About one in 10 school-age girls do not attend school during their menstruation because of the lack of clean and private sanitation facilities. Sexual harassment in school toilets is also quite common, particularly when toilets are isolated and far from the social control of the school.  In most schools toilet paper is not provided.. . .  [And the list continues].

Equal Education does not believe that the crisis in education is only the responsibility of government.
Having regulation in place will mean that the public, parents, pupils and teachers will have a standard by which to measure school infrastructure, thereby building local accountability. . .  We all want a better South Africa so let us unite and join the call for the right to education, and the enactment of minimum norms and standards for school infrastructure!

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