Monday, July 4, 2016

Response to SADTU attack on Angie Motshekga

Response to SADTU attack on Angie Motshekga
When she was made aware of allegations of improper, unethical appointments of education officials, principals and teachers, Minister Angie Motshekga constituted a task team to investigate. This was the only correct action to take. Her reputation is now being smeared by the Union whose members who have most frequently been implicated in this corruption. Surprise, surprise!
I have read the more than 200 pages of this report, and it names specific individuals, identifiable as SADTU ‘agents’. SADTU describes itself as an ‘industrial’ union., which may explain its inability to engage with schooling issues in an informed, academic and professionally appropriate manner. Hence their attack on Motshekga using that blunt, desperately fatigued instrument of the crass, crude and frankly inane personal slur.
In response to the recently published Ministerial Task Team's report on Jobs for Cash in Basic Education, SADTU, from the mouth of secretary Mugwena Maluleke, has again attempted in its inimitable mealy-mouthed fashion, to undermine and denigrate the Minister of Basic Education by accusing her of being an ‘agent of the Democratic Alliance’.
I suppose I ought to express appreciation that SADTU has not reverted to implementing the disgustingly sexist and disrespectful 'panty protest' tactic they employed against her in 2013.
I suppose I should also be grateful that they have not called a strike along the lines of their cynically timed, anti-educational thuggery just before Matric finals in 2010.
JaWellNoFine. Given her obvious commitment to her party as ANCWL President, as an ANC member of the Gauteng Legislature and MEC for Education and as a senior cabinet member since 2009, this pronouncement gives rise to some interesting observations, grounded in reality and based on fact.
The cloth-eared SADTU official who made this patently ridiculous accusation appears fundamentally obtuse and clearly does not perceive that he is actually presenting Mrs Motshekga with an opportunity of being associated with the successful performance of the Western Cape Education Department, currently under the political control of the DA.
To be acknowledged as being aligned with good performance and success in the Basic Education sector is not much of a slur, is it, Mr Maluleke?‪#‎Fail‬!
That province is doing well, and the MTT report suggests that the reason there is no systemic 'jobs for cash' problem is that SADTU and the other teacher unions have a 50:50 membership share.
Aside from an apparent insight deficit, SADTU appears to be unaware that the National Minister is constitutionally required to execute her mandate, through the Provincial Education Departments, to all provinces in the country, regardless of which party is in political control.
In similar vein, the same SADTU intellectual accuses her of 'trying to reverse what the Freedom Charter propagated.'.
For the purposes of deflecting attention from SADTU members’ complicity in this 'jobs for cash' fraud, I assume that SADTU is restricting reference to the education related clauses in the Freedom Charter, but am at a loss to identify which of them Mrs Motshekga is being accused of attempting to 'reverse'.
The attempted slur (that of being a DA agent) loses steam completely and is exposed as a pathetic canard thus; although it is not an exciting document to read, the DA Education policy, like the ANC's, also espouses the principles of the Freedom Charter!
To take the argument a step further, since much of the South African Constitution is derived in principle from that 1955 document, any political party attempting to propagate policies in conflict with the Freedom Charter or the South African Constitution would not be likely to garner significant electoral support.
The ANC has enough on its plate at the moment. I'm not convinced that this party wants to risk losing more support on the grounds of a reversion to Verwoerdian Apartheid policies.
To accuse this Minister, a senior member of the ANC and of the Cabinet, of attempting to reintroduce Verwoerdian doctrines is either an expression of near-fatal ignorance or downright stupidity.
When I saw the SADTU statement it occurred to me that the union might have appointed publicity agents who suffer from delusions of becoming successful script writers in the genre of Absurdist Theatre. Watch out Tom Stoppard, here comes Mugwena Maluleke!
The education - related clauses of the Freedom Charter are listed below. I challenge Mr Maluleke to identify those that Minister Motshekga and the DA, want to 'reverse'.
The government shall discover, develop and encourage national talent for the enhancement of our cultural life.
(We have an entire Ministry of Arts and Culture now)
All the cultural treasures of mankind shall be open to all, by free exchange of books, ideas and contact with other lands
(South Africans are free to travel anywhere in the world now, no books are banned and no ideas forbidden. The concept is known as freedom of expression. People are even free to display their stupidity, ignorance, self-interest, avarice and amorality)
1 The aim of education shall be to teach the youth to love their people and their culture, to honour human brotherhood, liberty and peace.
(These principles find expression in the Basic Education Curriculum)
2 Teachers shall have all the rights of other citizens;
(Including the right to be employed without paying a 'fee' to corrupt officials)
3 Education shall be free, compulsory, universal and equal for all children; (Most of the 26 000 Public Ordinary Schools are 'no - fee' schools and access to Basic Education has is)
4 Higher education and technical training shall be opened to all by means of state allowances and scholarships awarded on the basis of merit; (The Funza Lushaka bursary scheme that supports education students and the more general National Student Financial Aid Scheme, NASFAS)
5 Adult illiteracy shall be ended by a mass state education plan.
(The Kha Ri Gude adult literacy programme has taught four million, formerly illiterate South Africans to read since 2010)
6 The colour bar in cultural life, in sport and in education shall be abolished. (ANC policy, DA policy and the Constitution clearly espouse principles that are anathema to a ‘colour bar’.
Mr Maluleke, unless you and I are referring to different Freedom Charters, I must conclude that you are talking a load of tripe, and you should apologize for your rude, unfounded allegation that Angie Motshekga is some kind of turncoat.
I submit the following fact for use by Mr Maluleke. An indicator of this ‘reverse’ would be evidence of a reduction in the number of South African children who have access to Basic Education. With this in mind, according to Statistics South Africa, 99,3% of 7 to 13-year-olds are in primary schools. I am genuinely intrigued to see how Mr Maluleke would use this fact to support his contention that Verwoerdian Bantu Education is the ultimate goal of this Minister. I won’t be holding my breath waiting for his response though.
Having demolished the SADTU twaddle, I would like to take this opportunity to highlight some of the work at classroom level that is being done, at the behest of Minister Motshekga. I write with the authority of the person responsible for implementing these directives.
Some background then. A trend has developed that showed that there was a decrease in the pupil participation rate in Mathematics in the FET Band, (Grades 10 – 12). Somewhat cynically, in pursuit of improving school pass rates in the National Senior Certificate (Matric), schools have been encouraging pupils to enrol for Mathematical Literacy (Maths Lit) in preference to (core) Mathematics. There is no doubt that Maths Lit is easier to pass than Mathematics, hence the shift nationally from Maths to Maths Lit. About 60% of grade 12 pupils are enrolled for Maths Lit which is not a desirable outcome given the need for larger numbers of school – leavers to have access to Higher Education courses in technical and scientific fields of study.
In 2014 it was noted that some schools were presenting entire cohorts of grade 12s, with none enrolled to write Mathematics. In layman’s terms, a crazy situation!
Obviously this position had to change and a decision was taken to develop a plan to reintroduce Mathematics as a subject option in these schools. Bearing in mind that the supply of maths teachers is quite restricted, a solution had to be devised that would place academically competent personnel in schools that could not attract teachers with the necessary skills. In addition, even if Maths teachers were still present in the identified schools, there was a great likelihood that these teachers’ content knowledge deficits were a cause of the declined pupil enrolment in the first instance anyway.
We thus faced a double challenge. The first being to find people able to teach the content who were also willing to be placed in some of the most difficult-to-staff schools, mostly in the furthest and poorest reaches of the country. Consequently, a plan was developed, called The Reintroduction of Mathematics Project (RoMP) and my job is to see that it is implemented.
The first action was to enter an agreement with an NGO called TEACH SA. This NGO has, since 2009, been recruiting non-education students from all university campuses in the country. These young graduates attend a two-week residential induction training course and are then placed in schools that need their academic subject knowledge. The main focus is on Science, Maths, English and Accounting. TEACH SA specifically do not recruit from the education student pool, since they are already on track to become professional teachers and one objective of TEACH SA is to increase further the pool of teacher talent in these ‘scarce-skills’ subjects.
Following the induction programme in December 2015, 78 TEACH SA graduates were placed in schools where their skills were desperately needed. There is a cherry on the top for this programme. In Mpumalanga for example, over 60% of TEACH Ambassadors have undertaken professional teacher qualification (the Post-Graduate Certificate in Education) and have remained in the profession following their first two year stint in the TEACH programme. TEACH Ambassadors have been placed in very remote, rural villages around Nongoma in KZN. Their motivation to contribute to educational advancement within the country is apparent, and they express a heartfelt desire to ‘give back’ or ‘pay forward’ in school communities that have a need for their skillsets. Many of the TEACH Ambassadors have Honours and Masters degrees, and I have seen and heard first-hand how much they are valued by the principals, parents and pupils of the schools where they serve.
Earlier this year, we took a groups of TEACH Ambassadors to a particular district that had indicated a need for their services. Here I encountered the ugly face of the ‘jobs for cash’ scam in person. Despite the provincial department’s identification of the need, the principals of the schools in this district refused to accept the Ambassadors. The principals could give no reason for their refusal and we had to return to Johannesburg with this group of very disheartened graduates. It occurred to me that the likely reason for not taking the Ambassadors was simply that there was no way for these principals to skim off the top of these Ambassador’s salaries. In my view these principals should have been fired for insubordination since that province’s Head of Education had directed that these appointments should be made. I doubt there was any consequence though. Union protection? I have no doubt. Shame on them!
Sad for the children in these understaffed rural schools, but a bonus for the schools where they were ultimately placed. Panyaza Lesufi, MEC for Education in Gauteng and his Head of Department, Edward Mosuwe, eagerly grabbed these Ambassadors and they were placed in needy schools within that week.
Since the TEACH Ambassadors are not professionally trained teachers, they need quite a lot of mentoring and support with regard to teaching methods and lesson planning, classroom and behaviour management - the ‘soft-skills’ side of teaching practice.
This minister, whom you accuse of reactionary reversion, has a deputy, Mr Enver Surty. His objectives align with hers, and his initiatives are an extension of her portfolio. So, in short, as a consequence of DM Surty’s engagement with the British Council, an outstanding ICT-based teacher-training programme called IRIS Connect is being piloted in six township schools in Ekurhuleni South. The British Council contribution to this partnership provides the training and hardware needed to maximise the impact of this platform.
Whilst this leg of the RoMP programme was initially planned to support only the TEACH Ambassadors, while the training was being conducted, 18 in-service, professionally qualified teachers asked if they could also participate.
These teachers are the kind of people who volunteer themselves to take on extra work because they see the value to be derived by their pupils and themselves as professional teachers. These are the kind of teachers we need more of. Even the district subject specialists requested to be included. The platform allows for self-reflection by filming classroom activity and gives teachers access to a community of practice that provides feedback and support in matters ranging from pedagogic content knowledge to marking memo discussion. There are myriad other applications for this proven, impactful teaching and training platform.
The point is that the same ministry you allege is reverting to antediluvian Apartheid-style activities, is actively promoting the introduction of technologically innovative, cost effective programmes, in precise contradistinction to your union’s waffling twaddle.
Mr Maluleke, how does an innovative programme that increases the national pool of competent, young Maths teachers lead to your nastily unfounded belief that this minister is ‘reversing’ the principles of the Freedom Charter?
Mr Maluleke, how do you square provision of academically excellent graduates to the most difficult to staff schools, with your delusion that this minister is reverting to a system designed to produce people competent only to draw water and hew wood? Regrettably it appears that the only wood in this scenario is to be found between your ears!
I answer my question with the observation that you cannot square delusion with reality. If SADTU members are involved in ‘jobs for cash’ deals, do the right thing and help to prosecute them. They are not worthy of protection, and unless your union takes action and you stop deflecting attention from their malfeasance, your union will continue to damage the prospects of a decent future for this nation’s children.
Stop with the ad hominem attacks and make a positive contribution. Become a union that represents the interests of professionals, not industrial workers. Stop protecting the useless and unwilling by preventing the formation of an inspectorate. Our children are not inanimate units of production like sticks of furniture or sanitary ware.
It is understood that a union represents the interests of its employed members. Fair enough, but is it really necessary to prejudice the life chances of the school children your members are supposed to be serving, (who are of course not SADTU members), by attempting to destroy the work and reputation of a smart, hard-working and honest minister?
David Silman

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