KZN NAPTOSA PROVINCIAL CONFERENCE held on 21 August 2014
The Conference theme was : Save The Children - Education Tomorrow
Good evening Mr Chairman, Geoff Solomons, Chairman Elect, PCEO, Anthony Rufus Pierce, The HOD Dr Sishi, Guests, members.
Allow me to congratulate you on a wonderful conference and a most unusual theme. I think it has been designed to make the lives of those speaking to the theme more difficult. Its surreal nature gives me as little licence to interpret it in a convenient fashion.
At first it seems like a desperate cry for help. SAVE the CHILDREN. On this point I want to pause briefly and reflect on the challenges of being a child in South Africa today.More children than ever before are enjoying the privilege of Education in South Africa. More children today have decent schools than ever before in our history. More of our children are entering tertiary education than ever before.
What a proud moment when we look back and celebrate the fruits of democracy.But today we are also told that children are suffering unspeakable human right violations often at the hands of those they trust most, their teachers and their parents.
In their study on sexual violence by educators, the WITS School of Law paint a bleak picture of teachers as predators lacking in accountability in a system that allows them to slip through the nets. Our children are suffering abuse, poverty and hunger every day, notwithstanding all the good programmes in place like PSNP – which tragically has been exploited by the unscrupulous, at the expense of our children.
Then we let them down by poor teaching, ill-discipline and lack of sufficient care.
Members of NAPTOSA I always defend you and beat my breast declaring not us it must be them. Those others.
- Can I still proudly declare that we are the defenders of quality learning and teaching?
- I do believe that our founding fathers got it wrong when they declared Education to be a human right. Is it really?
- Did they not mean quality education? That must surely be a human right.
And if we fail to provide such we must be guilty of violating the human rights of the child. Maybe if a few of these teachers were charged we wold see the culture of neglect changing.
A brief peek into recent research by Nic Spaull and Hamsa Venkat(2014), the Needu (National Education Evaluation and Development Unit) report of Nic Taylor suggest all is not well.
Nic Spaull released his research two weeks ago on the state of mathematics education in grade six. I don’t wish to repeat all his findings but to highlight what he refers to as the insurmountable deficit built up by grade six because of poor teaching, absenteeism, poor teacher knowledge, skipping sections etc– so much so that it becomes impossible for our children to bridge this divide – ever condemning them to mathematical literacy in the high school, mediocre results, limited life choices. Indeed it is a crisis.
What are we NAPTOSA KZN doing about this? What is our response to the charge that we are failing our children?
I have this value proposition that it is impossible to tackle HIV/Aids, poverty, food production, climate change, and health provision, stop Ebola from becoming the next Black Death – without quality education.
And you ladies and gentlemen are the gate keepers. You and only you will determine whether we fail our children or change the course of their lives.
Many school badges are emblazoned with a burning candle symbolising the light of education. But are we giving our children the flame or the ashes. NAPTOSA members have recently been invited to participate in various mathematics WEBINARS, yet another example of NAPTOSA using every vehicle to access its members and to make professional development accessible.
I stumbled across a book by Robert Fulgram which reminded me again of the powerful influence that teachers, especially women, have on our life's course especially when they are committed, concerned, typical NAPTOSA teachers. This book contains a poem entitled – All I need to know I learned in kindergarten.
I will read a few lines that will confirm with you too the powerful impact that these women have and can have on the millions that pass through their hands.
Most of what I really need
To know about how to live
And what to do and how to be
I learned in kindergarten
Wisdom was not at the top
Of the graduate school mountain
But there in the sandpile at school
These are the things I learned.
Don't hit people
Put things back where you found them
Clean up your own mess
Don’t take things that are not yours
Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody
Wash your hands before you eat
Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you
Live a balanced life
Learn some and think some
And draw and paint and sing and dance
And play and work everyday some
Take a nap every afternoon
When you go out into the world
Watch out for traffic
Hold hands and stick together
Be aware of wonder
Remember the little seed in the polystyrene cup ETC ETC.
This is what our women have left us to with – Lessons for life.
The challenge of quality teaching and learning. This is the challenge that lies ahead.
The intention of Minister Angie Motshekga to change the legislation to allow the compulsory school going age to be from age 5 is welcomed. This would mean that grade R would be included in the formal primary school. Given the research on the efficacy of grade R which indicated that Grade R has had no real impact on the quality of primary schooling or school readiness the move is welcomed and will enjoy our support. There will be an impact on teacher numbers, upgrading of the qualifications of grade R teachers to bring them into the mainstream. In some areas infrastructure challenges etc. But this is what NAPTOSA has been calling for. Only inclusion into the formal school will see the desired improvements to the quality of teaching and learning.
I am told that the meaning of life is planting a tree under whose shade you may never sit. Yes NAPTOSA – leave a legacy – give the flame not the ashes. You do not need permission when it comes to quality teaching. NAPTOSA wants great schools for every child. Quality Education is the proverbial stone in the pond - that creates a positive disruption in the children’s lives Change the status quo and spread the influence.
I want to tell you today that the future of this beloved country does not lie in the well-heeled private schools or even the handful of model C schools but it lies in promoting, developing and ensuring excellence in public schools, in township schools, in no fee schools, in rural schools. And today is the tomorrow that they were looking forward to yesterday – so don’t postpone it you need it, they need it, and we need it. Only when they all perform will our education system deliver.
From the education department we must demand better service – and let me tell you there are much worse places to be than in KZN.
- We need more support
- We need better more coherent policies around special education, inclusive education and policy documents like SIAS (Screening, Investigation, Assessment and Support)
- We need discipline intervention supports, here I want to acknowledge the HOD/MEC for their efforts and responding to our cries for help. The draft Determination of serious misconduct and disciplinary process for learners in public schools illustrates that you are indeed in touch with the heartbeat of our schools and teachers.
I want to remind the DBE the HOD and MEC that ‘’ a country which does not respect its teachers cannot pretend to love its children.’’ Whilst celebrating some really wonderful achievements earned over the past 20 years of democracy lets be more enthusiastic. Don’t judge the claim by its weakest link because that’s like judging an ocean by one of its waves. Let’s embrace the shortcomings, as mere challenges, fight for their eradication, but never stop to wait and see what happens, as the world keeps moving on. If India waited to have a toilet in every school they would not be at the level they are at in ICT and Medicine.
As NAPTOSA we are in a particularly important position as the second largest union and by far the best organised union with the biggest curriculum voice we carry the responsibility to make things work.
That NAPTOSA is your responsibility and even more that’s the legacy you must leave behind.