Equal Education: The Demands of Workers and Teachers are Reasonable

by Aug 18, 2010South Africa: Public Sector Strike 2010, Special Features

08/14/2010

Only secure and valued teachers can deliver quality education We will continue to campaign for quality teaching and professionalism from teachers

Equal Education (EE) believes that the demands of workers and teachers for an 8,6% increase, a R1 000 housing subsidy, equalisation of medical aid, and an implementation date of 1 April 2010, are reasonable. We call on government to engage seriously and urgently.

Learners, particularly matrics, will indeed suffer from a strike. These are EE’s core members. Exams are approaching and it would be a crippling blow, a potential disaster, for learners to be without their teachers. Nobody, including striking teachers, can take this lightly. If there is to be a strike, teachers will need to arrange extra classes for matrics.

We call on our government to make every possible effort to meet the legitimate needs of the teachers so that a protracted strike is avoided.

Why does EE support the teachers?

•    Teachers are underpaid

A new teacher, with matric and three-year university qualification, will earn R9 271 per month. This is inadequate for a professional supporting a family. Government and all of us – society at large – are failing teachers in this regard.

•    We need to attract a new generation of teachers to fix the education system

There are very serious problems with the level of skill, qualification and sometimes professionalism of many of our teachers. We need to ask ourselves, as a country, what we want the situation to be in 2025, when the objectives of government’s new educational plans are meant to be achieved. Unless we attract a new generation of bright and motivated young people into the profession, none of the other work being done to fix education will succeed. Motivation comes from much more than income, but with high costs of living, student loans to repay, and families to support, we must recognise that a decade of above-inflation increases are needed to attract people into teaching. In the meanwhile we need more training and support for current teachers.

•    The allocation of teaching posts and the remuneration of teachers does not adequately address inequality

The vast majority of education funding by government – teacher salaries – is not allocated on a pro-poor basis. Due to the higher levels of teacher qualifications and experience in wealthy public schools, and a lack of financial incentives to attract good teachers into township and rural schools, government itself spends more, when it comes to teaching, on each child in a wealthy public school than each child in a poor school. The only pro-poor funding is “norms and standards” funding which accounts for about 9% education spending. When teaching and non-teaching expenditure is aggregated, according to the Western Cape Government’s own performance assessment, government spends the same on its poorest learners as it does on its richest. As we’ve shown previously, there is little actual redistribution in the education system, and this is exacerbated by the hiring of additional teachers out of fees charged in wealthy schools. The teachers in poor schools suffer this reality. They are expected to teach bigger and more classes, mark double the homework and double the tests, with fewer resources, all for less pay.

What does EE expect from teachers?

•    As a basic minimum, we expect the non-negotiables of being on time, on task, well-prepared, delivering quality education every day.

•    As we have said in the past, teacher union meetings during school hours are unacceptable.

•    We expect to see teachers joining and leading campaigns to improve their own conditions of work in schools. We invite teachers to join EE’s campaigns around textbooks and libraries.

•    We expect teachers to work beyond when the bell rings at 2pm. Many teachers do offer extra lessons and give passionately of their time. But in many schools there is no sport or extra-mural activity. We have to ask more of teachers in this regard.

•    Future generations of our people depend on the quality of teachers’ work. We believe that a discussion is needed on whether an element of teacher remuneration should be related to their performance, as independently assessed, and how teachers should be held accountable for their performance by communities.

EE high school members are often frustrated by our teachers, but we know that our teachers work in intolerable conditions, and are paid too little. If there was money for the World Cup, why not for our teachers?

If there is money for cars, hotels and salaries for Ministers, why not for our teachers?

We know that an investment in the teachers is an investment in us. We will continue to demand a higher quality of teaching, but we stand by our teachers in their need for decent pay.    Original statement on Equal Education website.

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