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Date: Fri, 13 Oct 1995 03:56:29 -0200
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Subject: Mayibuye - October 1995

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Implement school recommendations soon

By Blade Nzimande, ANC NEC member and chair of the ANC education study group,
in Mayibuye, Vol. 6, no. 6, October 1995

Recommendations to reform schooling should be implemented as soon as possible, writes Blade Nzimande.

Three important developments in education took place in the past month. These developments represent significant steps in our agenda for social transformation and the attainment of equity in South Africa. We witnessed the submission of the report of the review committee on organisation, governance and financing of schooling, and the passage in parliament of the South African Qualifications Authority Act and the Education Policy Bill [see accompanying story]. All these developments have been the subject of much controversy and vitriol over the past few weeks.

The report on the organisation, governance and funding of schools was commissioned by education minister Sibusiso Bengu as a sincere attempt to find the best way of eliminating the inequities and enormous waste of resources - both human and material - that currently characterises our education system. These inequities are in terms of our per capita funding. It is unacceptable that in this democratic dispensation, the state still spends five times as much money on a white child as it spends on a child in the former Transkei.

There exists inequity in the ownership of schools by communities. With their Education Renewal Strategy of the early 1990s, the National Party ensured that they transferred state educational resources to white communities, in the form of the model C and model A schools, before the advent of a new system. This the NP did in an attempt to maintain white educational privilege and to allow white parents to exclude other groups from utilising these resources.

Not only did the review committee attempt to address these inequities, they also offered the authorities a way out of the confusion. Instead of the many categories of schools that we have at present, they are proposing two types of schools - public schools and private or independent schools. Placing all public schools in the same category will more adequately expose the inequities that exist between schools and allow for the development of common standards in terms of provisioning.

We welcome the proposal that all school communities be endowed with all the same basic governance powers, with the possibility of acquiring additional powers as capacity develops. We are especially heartened by the fact that the report has as a component for capacity building in schools that in the past had no governance powers. The most welcome proposal in as far as governance is concerned is the report's suggestion on the composition of governing bodies. This proposal accords with the MDM position on the democratic governance of schools. If this proposal is accepted, then all the important stakeholders in the schooling community would have an effective say in the governance of education. We would strongly urge the acceptance of the committee's proposals on the governance of schools by the minister and the MECs for education.

The committee's proposals on the financing of education had to deal with an aspect that had wide ranging ramifications. The inequities in funding of education are so deep-seated that any proposed transformation had to take into consideration various factors:

  • The effect on national expenditure on education. This would determine to what level you increase funding in the disadvantaged sectors or to what level you decrease funding to the advantaged sectors, and the speed at which we shall be able to attain equity and redress in spending.
  • The question of 'standards' will raise its head because any attempt to attain equity and redress in spending, given the current fiscal constraints, would entail significant reduction in spending on education for the advantaged.
  • The issue of additional resources, which will clearly be needed if we are to attain equity, raises questions about user fees and the ANC's commitment to ten years of basic free and compulsory education.
  • The question of the redistribution of teaching and administrative staff in schools, which accounts for 90 percent of spending in education then rears itself, because equalisation in spending will mean redistributing teachers from the over-supplied areas to where there is a shortage. This has political and other implications.

The committee members have been prudent in the way in which they dealt with the financing question. In my opinion, they have been too prudent. They were so cautious that the proposals they make do not seem to address the question in a satisfactory manner.

The first proposal they put on the table, the 'gradualist minimalist' approach towards achieving equity, is aimed at causing the least discomfort to the privileged sector. In fact if this approach were to be adopted, then the inequitable dispensation in education funding would basically remain in place, and equity would be achieved only in twenty to thirty years. It is not surprising that this approach has found favour with the likes of the NP, the DP, the Sunday Times and others of the same ilk. It is preposterous to think that we would countenance the possibility of waiting another twenty years before we have equity in education in this country.

The second proposal, their so-called 'equitable school-based formula' adopts a more radical approach. This proposal is based on "the premise that the achievement of per capita equity in the allocation of resources to schools (and hence to all children) has to be a fundamental objective of the process of educational transformation". This kind of logic cannot be faulted, because the achievement of an equitable dispensation remains the primary objective of our transformation agenda. In addition, the constitution obliges the state to provide an equal basic quality education to all. The fact that this option also makes allowances for funding for redress purposes over and above the basic formula funding for disadvantaged communities based on an index of need addresses the redress question satisfactorily.

The possibility of instituting this kind of funding should be examined more closely. Even though I understand the point that this form of funding would require more sophisticated education management information than we currently possess, I think the Ministry of Education should seriously consider this proposal as a real option if we are serious about addressing the inequities in education.

The third option proposed by the committee, the 'partnership funding approach', suggests a partnership between parents and the state in the financing of education. It suggests that for costs other than capital and personnel costs, parents pay for the education of their children with payments on a sliding scale with zero rating for a certain minimum category of income.

I have serious reservations about this approach. Firstly, it seems to represent a significant abdication of our commitment to free and compulsory education for ten years. Secondly, given the extent of poverty in the country, it might mean essentially exempting up to 70 percent of parents from paying fees. If you are going to exempt that many parents, you might as well not charge anyone.

On the whole the report represents an important step forward in our effort to transform education in this country and I urge the minister to implement the positive recommendations of the committee without delay. Prompt implementation will ensure that we start the next school year on a sound footing.

Blade Nzimande is an ANC NEC member and chair of the ANC education study group.

Teachers' three year strategy to improve schooling

To help the reconstruction of education in South Africa, Sadtu is considering a three year bargaining strategy. Kate Skinner outlines its bargaining themes.

The South African Democratic Teachers' Union (Sadtu) is discussing within its ranks a new three year bargaining strategy. This marks a major departure from the union's ritualistic annual wage bargaining, often characterised by conflict and confrontation. As part of its agenda to reconstruct education and empower teachers it has outlined the following bargaining themes: improvement of conditions of service for educators; new salary grading; improved training; and time off and secondment for union officials.

Sadtu believes that the massive exodus of well-qualified teachers from the profession, particularly in understaffed fields like maths, science and commerce, is due to uncompetitive salaries and poor working conditions. Teachers are lured by lucrative packages from the private sector. On average teachers earn substantially less than their counterparts with equivalent qualifications and responsibilities in business.

Conditions of service

There are major problems with the teacher salary scale. For one thing, it is qualifications driven. Other criteria such as level of responsibility, level of teaching, experience and performance are largely ignored. This has led to a qualifications 'paper chase' which has encouraged a situation where teachers are more committed to their own studies than to those of their pupils.

Also the discriminatory policies of the past have resulted in an exceptionally broad salary scale with a ratio of almost 10:1 between the highest and lowest salaries. The vast majority of teachers who earn less than the average are unqualified or underqualified.

Average salaries are skewed in terms of race and gender because of the historically uneven distribution of qualifications and post levels among teachers. This results in african teachers earning 75 percent of the average of white teachers, and women teachers earning 85 percent of the average of male teachers.

The Education Labour Relations Council (ELRC) must undertake as a matter of urgency the task of addressing these anomalies. The objectives should be to:

  • achieve a living wage for teachers;
  • eliminate disparities with the education sector;
  • begin to de-link remuneration from qualifications and give due recognition to performance;
  • reduce the present categories to an acceptable number and flatten the salary structure to reduce the apartheid wage gap;
  • eliminate disparities between teachers and their counterparts in the private sector.

One of the most important service benefits in the public service as a whole are the non-monetary service benefits. These include pension benefits, home owner allowances and medical aid. The state's contribution however has not kept in line with the rise in the cost of living. A key component of our bargaining strategy must therefore be to secure favourable, inflation-related service benefits.

Sadtu has recently won a major victory in terms of the home owner allowance scheme - this has now been extended to all female educators.


One of the legacies of apartheid education has been the over concentration of teacher training in the humanity and social science fields. This has led to the overproduction of teachers in subjects like African languages, biblical studies and history. This has contradicted the law of supply and demand and has led to a situation of severe teacher unemployment.

The union's belief is that teacher training should now be geared towards an overall strategy of building the economy and should thus be located within the realm of economic growth and development.

Sadtu has thus called for a special 'training needs' task team to be set up in the ELRC. Its brief should include to:

  • review the status of teacher training colleges and make recommendations towards their restructuring in order to ensure that they meet RDP imperatives;
  • review existing education and training curriculum and support services;
  • make proposals on the education and training needs of educators;
  • make suggestions on the structuring of development centres both at national and provincial level.

Secondment and time off for union officials

By Kate Skinner, Media Officer of the South African Democratic Teachers' Union

The right of union officials to perform union functions while employed by the state is recognised internationally. In South Africa many trade unions have concluded agreements with their employers, which guarantee secondment and time-off for union work. With the advent of unionism in the education sector, there has been an increasing need for employer and employee organisations to negotiate an agreement on this issue.

Sadtu has won this battle in the ELRC. A resolution says that time off will be guaranteed to bona fide union officials to do union work during school hours. But this will be built into the school timetable to ensure a balance between school and union work. Union officials will retain their full pay benefits and their leave days will not be interfered with.

In terms of secondment the state and employee organisation will determine an effective mechanism to ensure that the interests of pupils are not sacrificed. The period of secondment will be reviews after 12 months.

The primary function of seconded educators will be to ensure the resolution of disputes in the ELRC; to give effect to collective bargaining; to assist in the successful implementation of agreements; to provide teacher organisations with administrative assistance; to participate in forums and task groups and generally to coordinate the activities of teachers.

Kate Skinner is Media Officer of the South African Democratic Teachers' Union.

Students committed to change in schools

Students in Cosas are proud of the advances made in education, but still feel a lot has to be done. Mziwakhe Hlangani reports.

The Congress of South African Students (Cosas) believes significant strides have been made in the struggle for a non-racial democratic education system, according to Cosas national general secretary Tshilidzi Ratshitanga.

However, the organisation, which holds its annual national conference in December, is concerned by some of the delays in passing important legislation, particularly the National Education Policy Bill. The bill was rejected by the National Party, Inkatha Freedom Party, Pan Africanist Congress, Democratic Party and African Christian Democratic Party first because they felt insufficient consultation had taken place around it, and secondly because they thought some parts of it was unconstitutional.

Cosas, however, maintains that the bill contains the principles "we stood for in the struggle for a non-racial education system".

The bill would give power to the Minister of Education to bring about practical changes with the introduction of a framework for the free choice of language systems, school level curriculum and school budget priorities.

Cosas believes the bill, which has been referred to the Constitutional Court, needs to be passed as a matter of urgency. "If it is delayed until next year a chaotic situation in schools will be inevitable," Ratshitanga said. Although students were not properly consulted on certain sections of the bill, the bill's limitations could be addressed and tremendous strides made towards the long-term goals of students, he said.

The mass democratic movements should have expected that the NP would try to delay the passage of the Bill since its positions had created havoc for black children for many years, Cosas national president Songezo Jongile added.

"The NP will always strive to maintain the status quo. Their delay in the process of change is the strategy that we will have to live with. This designed to enhance their racist political strategies," he said.

The democratic government had done its best in practically removing the NP's racist tradition of separate education systems. Cosas was committed to ensuring the undemocratic system of education was defeated, even if it meant prolonged mass action. The NP would never be allowed to maintain certain privileges for the whites, he said.

"We applaud the review committee for its wide-ranging recommendations calling for the total scrapping of the Model C schools and the democratisation of private and public schools," the Cosas leaders said.

They said they still have a way to go in demonstrating their support for the implementation of the recommendations. "The recommendations lay the basis for fundamental practical changes. But the main thing is that we want all schools to fall under the public sector because we have reservations about inflated government subsidies granted to the private schools - some which cannot deliver the real education. There is a need for redress and equity in this regard," they said.

The report also identified racism, inequitable funding arrangements and the lack of democratic structures in the entire education system as having militated against the development of quality schools. It found that schools lacked democracy because not all major stakeholders - teachers, pupils and the broader community - were involved in the governance of schools under the old system.

Cosas believes it is a waste of state funds to continue pouring vast sums of money into some unscrupulous institutions: "There must be a way of integrating private schools into the public."

Priorities must be given to public schools to redress imbalances, otherwise the victorious struggles would be doomed to failure; Cosas had to ensure that these victories were sustained.

Cosas rejects the Azanian Students Movement's (Azasm) call for the removal of white teachers from African township schools. Azasm had "no history of struggling for the democratic rights of the school students," Ratshitanga said.

Cosas maintains that the Azasm campaign is racist and it does nothing to address black employment. White teachers in black schools constitute less than five percent of teachers.

"It does not contribute to building a nation, while the mass democratic movement is in the process of building one nation. Cosas took up the initiative of fighting for the rights of black teachers and students, which shows that Azasm's call is political opportunism. Its death is inevitable since they do not have a constituency and their campaigns are not even supported by the unemployed black teachers they purport to represent," Ratshitanga said.

On the abolition of corporal punishment, Cosas said the education minister and MECs for education were in line with Cosas' view: "We support it [abolition of corporal punishment] since it was a barbaric implementation of responsibility and discipline. It should be remembered that through the learning process the South African society has always linked corporal punishment with discipline."

Teachers were not trained creatively on discipline, and there was no scientific proof to show that corporal punishment was effective: "What we are saying now is that the ministry should move in a responsible manner by ensuring that all the educational stakeholders are on board to discuss alternatives to corporal punishment, like the code of conduct for students or disciplinary committees that would be representative of students and teachers as well."

"The process [of transformation] is a tricky one and depends on interpretation and the will to act speedily. We need to see that all schools are transformed into public schools. Though we do not expect funding immediately, the budget must be channelled into disadvantaged black schools and the ANC ministers must press for the transformation of the former white schools into democratic schools, accessible to blacks," Ratshitanga said.

"Let's redirect resources, though it can mean reverse discrimination against the privileged schools. The emphasis should be on disadvantaged schools. We need to plan priorities because this will frustrate the aspirations of the community," he said.

Ratshitanga said a consultative relationship existed between the education ministry and Cosas. This makes it easier for the student body to exert influence on the ministry. Already this has brought dividends for the disadvantaged schools, he said.

Cosas is also concerned about the number of reports of alleged sexual abuse involving teachers and parents: "We are saying justice must introduce severe criminal sentence against the perpetrators.

There is also a need to put in place a curriculum on sexual education as a matter of urgency. It is important that justice be strengthened to wipe out sexual abuse on children."

These and other issues of concern to the student body would be discussed at their December conference.

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