The National Professional Teachers' Organisation of South Africa (NAPTOSA) held its  4th Biennial National Congress on 30 October to 1 November 2014 in Benoni. The theme of the Congress was, “Racing to the top: the challenges of Quality and Equity in education”.

The Congress was opened by Gauteng MEC, Mr Panyaza Lesufi, who highlighted Government’s priorities for education, which included the expanded provision of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in schools. This is welcomed by NAPTOSA, however, there is concern that educators were not included in the planning. “It is imperative that educators are trained prior to the roll-out of this initiative and that it is implemented equitably across all provinces”, said the newly re-elected President of the NAPTOSA, Mr Basil Manuel.

The key note speaker, Mr Sizwe Nxasana (CEO - FirstRand LTD) called for collective accountability from all South Africans with regard to education in the Country. He also highlighted the role of stakeholders in the National Education Collaboration Trust (NECT).
Mr Fred van Leeuwen, General Secretary of Education International (EI), told delegates that the privatisation and marketing of education services were becoming serious obstacles to the achievement of quality and equity in our education systems. “It is an illusion that education can be delivered more cheaply and efficiently by the private sector – with fewer and less qualified staff, and a liberal dose of one-size-fits-all on-line programs and standardised testing,” said Mr Van Leeuwen.

NAPTOSA Congress resolved on several issues including a rejection of the Department of Basic Education (DBE) proposed “one text book per subject” policy. The proposal did not find favour with NAPTOSA delegates for numerous reasons, including, the removal of “freedom of choice”. “No one author or set of authors can effectively include different perspectives of the content, nor can one textbook contain all relevant information”, said Mr Manuel.  Questions arose on how textbooks would be chosen or authors appointed to write the books. A motion was adopted to urgently request that the DBE conduct further extensive research before pursuing this initiative.   

Reflecting on the 20 years of education in a democratic South Africa, Mr Manuel said, “All was not bad, there is a lot that we could celebrate”. In applauding the implementation of the CAPS, Mr Manuel said that it was imperative that the Department of Basic Education (DBE) fine-tuned the CAPS as introspection would assist in further enhancing the curriculum.
In speaking on a motion regarding school discipline Mr Manuel warned the Congress that the nation must be wary of “institutional decomposition”.  He expressed concern about ill-disciplined behavior in schools and also made reference to the recent disturbances in the South African Parliament. Not only learners, but teachers too do not always demonstrate discipline, including, when they do not arrive on time in the classroom or school, he added.  
There was also discontent about the Annual National Assessment (ANA) which was meant to be a standardised test to assess the school system as a whole but which is now being used to grade schools. “As a result schools are tempted to teach to this test, rather than focusing on the curriculum as a whole.  Quality teaching and learning is suffering from the assessment spree,” said Mr. Manuel.

Congress lamented that issues in respect of Grade R remain unresolved and insisted that the universalisation of Grade R must occur, with the DBE providing the necessary infrastructure, physical and human resources, including fully-qualified and remunerated Grade R teachers. NAPTOSA supports the notion that Early Childhood Development (ECD) is crucial for successful continued schooling.
Some of the other motions that were adopted by the NAPTOSA Congress included, a call for the review of: White Paper 6 on Inclusive Education; the DBE Policy on Promotion and Progression and the implementation of the DBE- Screening Identification and Support (SIAS) Policy document. There was also a call for an increase in time allocation for career guidance in Life Orientation in the Senior Phase (Grade 7-9) to facilitate learner decisions regarding subjects and school choices.

Mr Basil Manuel (President), Mrs Anthea Cereseto (Deputy President) and Mr Nkosiphendule Ntantala (Vice-President) were all returned to their positions for a second two–year term of office. Mr Manuel said that the NAPTOSA leadership was resolute to confront the challenges in education that were highlighted at the Congress.  

Enquiries: Mr Basil Manuel - 079 508 6228