Hector Pieterson and Education – What did he achieve!!! 28

I’m not sure about any of you out there but I was shocked at the preposterous thought that the KwaZulu-Natal branch of the SA Democratic Teachers’ Union (Sadtu) has called on “biased marking” in favour of black matrics and this was reiterated and confirmed by the union’s provincial secretary Mbuyiseni Mathonsi the very next day. Sadtu was encouraging the matric markers to go lenient when marking the exam papers of the blacks in South Africa.

When high-school students in Soweto started protesting for better education on 16 June 1976, police responded with teargas and live bullets. Today we celebrate Youth day in honour of all the young people who lost their lives in the struggle against Apartheid and Bantu Education.

So what was Bantu education?

In 1953 the Apartheid Government enacted The Bantu Education Act, which established a Black Education Department in the Department of Native Affairs. The role of this department was to compile a curriculum that suited the “nature and requirements of the black people.” The author of the legislation, Dr Hendrik Verwoerd (then Minister of Native Affairs, later Prime Minister), stated: “Natives [blacks] must be taught from an early age that equality with Europeans [whites] is not for them.” Black people were not to receive an education that would lead them to aspire to positions they wouldn’t be allowed to hold in society. Instead they were to receive education designed to provide them with skills to serve their own people in the homelands or to work in labouring jobs under whites.

Bantu Education did enable more children in Soweto to attend school than the old missionary system of education, but there was a severe lack of facilities. Nationally public to teacher ratios went up from 46:1 in 1955 to 58:1 in 1967. Overcrowded classrooms were used on a rotation basis. There was also a lack of teachers, and many of those who did teach were under qualified. In 1961, only 10 per cent of black teachers held a matriculation certificate.

In 1972 a poll found that 98% of young Sowetans did not want to be taught in Afrikaans. The association of Afrikaans with apartheid prompted black South Africans to prefer English. Even the homelands regimes chose English and an indigenous African language as official languages. In addition, English was gaining prominence as the language most often used in commerce and industry. The 1974 decree was intended to forcibly reverse the decline of Afrikaans among black Africans. The Afrikaner-dominated government used the clause of the 1909 Constitution that recognized only English and Afrikaans as official languages as pretext to do so. While all schools had to provide instruction in both Afrikaans and English as languages, white students learned other subjects in their home language.

Because of the government’s homelands policy, no new high schools were built in Soweto between 1962 and 1971 — students were meant to move to their relevant homeland to attend the newly built schools there. Then in 1972 the government gave in to pressure from business to improve the Bantu Education system to meet business’s need for a better trained black workforce. 40 new schools were built in Soweto. Between 1972 and 1976 the number of pupils at secondary schools increased from 12,656 to 34,656. One in five Soweto children were attending secondary school.

Although the education system was a lot more complex, there were some basic needs.

~ Schooling to be done in English.

~ Not to get inferior subject matter

~ They wanted qualified teachers

My question is – Did Hector Pieterson and the 566 other students die in vain? – Not for the cause of Apartheid but for the education cause!!!

Since the new government has been in power they have made an effort to create more schools and I for one have been to many FET colleges in Natal, Port Elizabeth, Bloemfontein, Pretoria and Johannesburg. The facilities are absolutely brilliant and a credit to the Government. I just don’t understand then the need year on year to lower the pass rates. Why minimize primary school education to really basic subjects which seems to take the education back to the Verwoerd era.

My sister lives on a farm and the government runs a farm school there. A young girl who barely passed matric is the primary school teacher. She has no formal education to do that job!! She might be good at what she does but primary school education is very specific and surely those kids she teaches have been compromised in some way just like they were in Bantu education times!

I was listening to a talk on the radio by a wits law department professor and they said they would probably have to add a year to the University degree just to teach students how to read and write. The fact is that students are getting into university and they can’t even perform the basic tasks that enable them to be there in the first place and now they are asking the markers to go lenient when marking papers written by blacks. No matter what is said after this and no matter what happens – the ‘matric’s of 2010 will always have a stigma attached to their ‘matric’ marks especially if they are black because we will all be convinced that those teachers marking papers who pay into the Satdu union will be marking the papers leniently and once again lowering the level of where a student should be. IN 1976 ‘the blacks’ were fighting to be taught in English and today Satdu is admitting that it is all too much for them!!

I have taught outcomes based education techniques and subject matter to FET college lecturers and am always shocked at how little these teachers know. Some of the staff don’t know the basics of the subject they teach. One young lecturer had come from the textile industry and was going to teach travel and tourism. She had no idea what Mauritius even was and this was part of her curriculum. How can a student pass when the lecturer has no idea?

I taught computers earlier this year to a whole lot of life orientation teachers. Computers are an extremely large part of the life orientation syllabus. Besides 2 young girls who knew what they were doing the rest of the class had no idea. How do they expect the young student to pass the subject when the lecturer did not know her subject matter at all? Granted the teachers were being given this opportunity to learn something but it was definitely not nearly enough! We actually recommended that all these lecturers and more do further training to get them to the required level of understanding but that fell on deaf ears and the person we were dealing with wanting to know where her present from the contract was and should we get any more work from her we had to give her a fee!! Under qualified – just as they were in the apartheid era!!

In 2008 it was noted that schools were battling to fill 62 000 vacant posts and many of these posts were filled by temporary teachers. Deputy director-general Palesa Tyobeka said there were 16 950 under qualified teachers. She said some of these teachers had a degree but they did not have a teaching diploma or degree. The department awarded 3 669 Funza Lushaka bursaries in 2008. But of the 814 Funza Lushaka beneficiaries who graduated last year, only 421 found jobs; the remaining 393 new teachers are still waiting to be placed.

Further revelations this year found that in Cape Town, a reply to a Democratic Alliance parliamentary question revealed that more than 1 700 South African science teachers are not qualified to teach the subject. According to them, this means that at least 50 000 learners are not receiving teaching from qualified educators.

In Durban similar findings were released by findings done by the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP). More than 9 000 government science teachers in KwaZulu-Natal were unqualified and as many as 9 229 out of the province’s 34 968 science teachers currently lack formal qualifications to teach science subjects. Out of these 9 229 unqualified science teachers, 1 130 teachers only had matric and 925 had matric with one or two years of further training. 7 174 did have a Bachelor’s degree but without the requisite postgraduate certificate in education!!

Another study released by the International comparative research and published by the SA Institute of Race Relations (SAIRR) points to an enduring crisis in SA’s primary schools.

“South African schools are among the worst in Africa,” the SAIRR said.

Among Southern and Eastern African countries that participated in the study on schooling quality, SA scored below average on reading and mathematics proficiency for grade 6 pupils. Only one in five SA grade 6 pupils had attained the desired level of reading mastery and this was despite SA having a higher per capita GDP, a higher human development index rating, and higher spending per primary school pupil than many of the countries that recorded better scores!!!

On one of the many blogs a young black girl was praising her friend who got 83% for a subject at university and all the return comments where derogatory asking her how could we be so sure that this was a legit mark. Unfortunately when the government lowers the standard and continues with its policy of quotas and marks are being inflated; the rest of us will question the validity!!

Why does a democratic South Africa allow the government they voted into power to continually lower the standard back to Bantu education levels and except it as the norm? Why are parents and the pupils themselves not marching for better education just like they did before!! Why is it that a nation that did not accept the injustices of the passed, will so gladly accept the injustices of present day?

Let’s not kid ourselves ‘A pass is not a real pass’ when standards are lowered it only gives glory for a second but the stigma will attach itself to generations forever!!!

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28 thoughts on “Hector Pieterson and Education – What did he achieve!!!

  • Sylvia F. Hammond

    Just a point of clarification: we would not expect Minister Blade Nzimande to be talking about teachers because he is responsible for adult learning – tertiary education and workplace learning – that is FET colleges, universities, Setas.  So academics, professors, lecturers, facilitators are within his area of responsibility.

    Minister Angie Motshekga is responsible for ECD, primary and secondary education, so she is the one who plans for teacher development.

    The HRD strategy embraces all areas of national human resource development.  The NSDStrategy covers the area of Minister Nzimande’s responsibility – that adult learning.   


  • Lisa Amanda Bradshaw Post author

    Absolutely Tshavhumbwa. Which is my answer also to the topic on the NSDS111 Blade Nzimande speach – all these new plan outlines and not one includes getting teachers ready for the job. The lowering of standards is in no way a reflection of the student but the teacher. Don’t get rid of that teacher but put them through stringent training programs to upt their game and improve them. Watering down the system I agree just leaves a student with no real qualification, a product of a system that in no way helped them to strive to be the best they can. We need to do something and that maths centre web site does bring hope when you see projects are on the go!! Much more need be done!!

  • Tshavhumbwa Thenga

    I do not wish to be off tangent here, but while we are discussing resourcing  schools and learners alike, I am particularly disheartened at the appalling standard of our education, including that of teaching, particularly  in rural  schools. Furthermore, the introduction of inter alia, Maths Literacy,  – which is  a watered down version of “MATHS” if at all befitting to even be called maths, was tragic to learners.  Upon matriculation, we are really stuck with school leavers who cannot even use a scientific calculator – yes having scored Bs and As in what they believe to be MATHS, Yet day in and out we hear of the country being in dire need of doctors. How are we ever going to make doctors and scientists out of the beneficiaries of the OBE model?

  • Lisa Amanda Bradshaw Post author

    I see you are involved in quite a few projects in different schools at different stages of their school carriers with various partners. Brilliant projects!! Much needed and really positive contributions. Can you send me the full link to the University bench marking study!! Thank YOu

  • Sharanjeet Shan


    It is all simply so sad. Please see Maths Centre website for a longer comment: mcpt.org.

    University benchmarking study at a cost of millions showed how 73% learners who gained university entrance to do Maths failed their first year. We need a system, discipline and highly organised interventions to correct this abysmal failure in Maths and Science.

  • Sylvia F. Hammond

    Hi Lisa,

    Yes, I agree – that idea of sharing resources is definitely what’s needed.  Maybe when the new school term starts, every parent with children at a model C or other relatively privileged school should ask the question: how are we sharing our resources? 

    The UCT Vice-Chancellor at a recent Convocation meeting mentioned that he wanted to encourage UCT students to participate in community initiatives because working within communities provides an understanding of the realities of life in rural and underprivileged areas. 

    On Saturday we helped with a party for children who receive treatment from the Langa HIV Aids clinic.  My overwhelming impression is how little time and effort it takes when a few people get together to donate and to arrange a function for children.  See the photos in the album Langa Party. 


  • Lisa Amanda Bradshaw Post author

    Hi Sylvia.. A good point. A school In johannesburg sons used to attend spent a lot of time helping the little school down the road!! The kids from the little school would come up for computer lessons etc… We should start an adopt a school vision!!

  • Sylvia F. Hammond

    Although we are not having a discussion in racial terms, the reality is that the legacy of apartheid is still with us.  There are vast disparities in the quality of education received. 

    We can conduct our discussion in class terms very effectively as class is rapidly beoming deracialised. 

    My concern is how to “fight” for a better education.  With our state under pressure to provide in so many areas, simply demanding more may not be the most effective way to achieve our vision of equal access to a quality education.

    My question is: what can those who are advantaged by a good education actively and positively do to improve the education facilities of the disadvantaged schools?  

  • Lisa Amanda Bradshaw Post author

    I agree with you Tshavhumbwa, we do need to all make a meaningful contribution. Those that get the inferior education, lets not kid ourselves, are people being taught in the townships. If you are lucky enough to go to private schools or the old model C schools you still do get a better education. This is no equality with Township schools where the majority of our black children go!! There are some very good township schools but as a whole they are marginalised. That strike earlier this year. Who did it affect!! Private schools stayed open and my son at a model C school missed one day!! When primary school subjects go from 6 to 4 compulsory in the new system – Old model C schools will not lessen the load – Town ship schools will!! Is that equality. We must however all fight for a better education for all and discourse must start now!!!

  • Colin Dovey

    I am not sure where race came into this Dec 2010 discourse? It was part of the Apartheid policy many years ago. That issue is dead and buried. We are talking about the parlous, frightening state of education in our country. The ONLY people who can change that seem to have lost the plot…..again. WE, the people need to INSIST on change, and the only way to do that is by acting, not talking. 

  • Tshavhumbwa Thenga

    Lisa this is an informative piece – quite eye opening. It is about time that we open discourse – in earnest about the state of our education system as a whole, and not make it a black issue, as that detracts from the real  issue at hand. The whole of your piece suggests that black education is inferior and almost paints a bleak picture about the future of the black beneficiaries of this so called black education, especially the class of 2010. Black people have benefitted from the fight of Hector Peterson and the rest of the 1976 youth – those youth fought for “equality in education”, they fought for an educational system that would afford them equal opportunities with the whites, and today black people are reaping the benefits of that. If we wish to make any meaningful contribution that would even guide policies on educationa and/or any other issues in this country, we should deracialise our discourse.

  • Lisa Amanda Bradshaw Post author

    What are Cuba doing right!!

    I think part of our problems in the training fields is the way tenders are given!! The tenders are given to people who cannot do the training work themselves. They subtender out with limited funds and get sub standard workshops delivered to the people. The governemnt are happy because they can prove training was done but no one cared about the quality!! The work force is still unskilled with papers that say they should know something!!

  • Colin Dovey

    Forty-one percent of South Africa’s privately held businesses cite the availability of a skilled workforce as the biggest constraint to business growth, according to consultancy firm Grant Thornton’s 2009 International Business Report. We cannot use our Submarine Fleet for another 3 years  because dire shortage of submariners had contributed to keeping the vessel out of commission for so long. 

    The recession, with its attendant job losses, put the underlying skills shortage on the backburner and, as the economy moves towards recovery, the issue is coming back into focus. Adrian Young, executive director of Hatch Africa and director and chairman of the African Academy board, says there is a severe shortage of suitably qualified and experienced engineers, technologists, designers and technicians. Young is responsible for recruitment in this area. He says he has witnessed, first-hand, the limited availability of suitably skilled and experienced candidates to fit these job descriptions. 

    But now, what do we do? We go to Cuba, and set them up as the example we should be using, because THEY are exporting Doctors to South Africa! 


  • Berrington Ntombela

    You must also look at the ideological underpinnings that inform the practice of existence as engraved in the psyche of masses.  There is an explicit message that goes to all inculcating the culture of affluence at the expense of acedemic prowes.  Recently it has been reported that most postgraduate students hail from other African countries as South Africans often think of making wealth as soon as they attain the first degree (if they are lucky to).  There could be nothing wrong with that, but the danger that could as well be manifesting itself presently is that the product from institutions of learning lack the crucial critical mindedness as they only concern themselves with how quick they can get rich, which of course could be achieved without acedemic discipline that generally grounds educational matters.  The teaching profession in particular stands at a disadvantage as it’s ranked at the bottom of professions that create instant wealth.  The results of that are too obvious.  

  • Lisa Amanda Bradshaw Post author

    Absolutely Bosole. You want education to be liberated but once liberated the education standards are lowered because we keep telling the masses they are to stupid to pass so we lower the pass rate even more  and as Colin says its not the students at all but quality teachers. The quality of teachers is entirely to do with government systems. My sister lives on a farm and her farm school primary teacher barely has matric. Its not her fault!! As Angus says – how will that 6 year old cope with matric when the basics aren’t being taught properly at grade 1 level. How Bosole do we start a dignified but strong movement  – no toy toying no demonstrations – to show the government that educators mean business. We want to educate our children like they should be educated!! WHat can we all do – We can’t give up!!

  • Colin Dovey

    Trouble is we are all talking about improving education, which requires quality teachers. The quality teachers which came from the Teachers Training Colleges have now been consigned to the scrapheap of an alien ideology and misplaced philosophy. THAT needs to be addressed……….but who has the guts, and the gumption to change it? It is no good if the people have land, if they are not schooled in a college, or whatever, on how to maximise output for a profit. It has also become a very sophisticated arena, cut throat even. 

  • Bosole Chidi

    THE ISSUE of Education is so important.The History of 1976 should not be distorted as we were not only fighting for a better education but the oppression in our land.Our colleagues died to have a better and quality education so that they must be able to liberate themselves.The question is did we achieve what we said ” Education for liberation”. Not yet because the goverment is compromising education for our children.What kind of society do SADTU want to build if they are publicly uttered this statements.The African people should wakeup and makesure that the foundation at Primary school level is a good one.


    Withou a foundation we had nothing.We will cry for skills shortages infinity. 

  • Chris Reay

    Well put Lisa.

    What is happening in teaching is spreading like a cancer everywhere in SA. It is eating away at the strong cells of life. When we change the rules of social evolution in respect of the survival of the fittest, and via political influence no longer use competence, skills, knowledge and experience to fill the needs of institutions that have always had to draw on the best human skills to evolve and grow, and instead have racially determined measures to select those who fill those roles, then be prepared to see the decline across society as a whole. What we are witnessing are the symptoms of the root cause in SA: political metrics not competence metrics. It is now at epidemic level and no knob twiddling by government will stop the rot. What we will witness is ever increasing poverty levels and rising unemployment. I deal with the training and development end of the technical resources (Engineering) supply chain. The crisis at the feed stock end (maths and science, numeracy, literacy) is just scary.

  • Lisa Amanda Bradshaw Post author

    Thanks Colin – I am a language fanatic – but sometimes get muddled between the base latin, greek or germanic word and in MS Word use my thesaurus a lot to decipher the difference. The youth are so into the sms language that they have no idea when they have to use English correctly. How does this new basic primary school education syllabus have an effect on the way they will learn. They have changed the 6 basic subjects to 4. Is this a good thing!!

  • Colin Dovey

    No probs Lisa 🙂 Actually, I felt a bit guilty about pointing that out – not wanting to sound like a nitpicker. But, I became interested in the word, and discovered that it DOES exist (“Based on or having the nature of an illusion”) and you will know that “elusive” was what you meant to say – but we are ALL in such a rush these days. 

    The thing is though, NONE of us want our standards to drop, and the low levels of literacy and numeracy skills at University level is something to be really alarmed about. My experience lately, in my classes, is that students do not know how to pronounce or use words in the correct context, and then how to work out percentages at a primary school level. How do we change something as BASIC as that. Even MAJOR changes NOW would only filter through in 20 years time! – We are reaping the mistakes made 12 years ago.

  • Lisa Amanda Bradshaw Post author

    Red with embarrassment!! I just copied the word – knew the meaning and never realised. Just hope I’ve never written it on a black board like that!! 😉 I like corrections – Thank You

  • Colin Dovey

    Just a small point……there is no word “illusive” – it is elusive – but then that may be correct – we are working in an illusion in our education system 🙂

  • Lisa Amanda Bradshaw Post author

    Thanks Thabang for bringing that to my attention. Illusive is always more dangerous and underhand and as you say its not seen so one doesn’t question!!!

    I agree Jacqui mediocracy is a problem on all levels. You won’t try if you don’t have to. I would like to look at this further as I also feel its a sign of our times and Blacks and Whites both have, in general, not all, a I want but I don’t want to work too hard attitude!!!

    Do you think as educators Colin with the help of skills universe we could insist on a hearing with Ms MA Motshekga . I am not sure if something like that is possible but definitely worth a try!!

    I do wish Doreen that they would just employ qualified teachers first regardless of colour for the sake of the children!! I do know I read an article somewhere that the MEC for education in Gauteng was wanting to bring back teachers regardless of colour – Barbara Creecy – Write to her direct maybe!!

  • Thabang Hlaisa

    Hi All,

    When, the news broke, I too was in shock! Racing through my mind was the steep increase of Private School Education as more parents will strive to provide their children with better education [myself included], and the second thought was the fact that through ill- considered decisions like these all that SADTU and the government are doing is creating generations of ill educated individuals…just like apartheid did.


    I concede that the 2010 Matrics had a tough time due to strikes, however if they took their education seriously they would have formed study groups. [Maybe some did]. If the teachers were commited to the education of their learners they would have prepared learners in terms of how to use self directed learning techniques so as not to fall behind. I also concede, with a heavy heart that it is the culture in SA that black teachers [with an exception of a negligible number of white teachers] go on strike for the benefit of all, and yet when the benefit is achieved, its their white counterparts that look down on them and alas, the black child that bears the brunt.


    Don’t get me wrong, lowering of educational standards has never and will never be the smart thing to do! However before we all climb on our pedistals and ask why the black parents are not striking against this decision, remember that the majority of them are employed by white employers who [as things are in SA] will tell them to take unpaid leave on a” hand to mouth wage”, secondly parent groups are not organised in a fashion to create a national strike…think about it…how many e-mails have done their rounds calling for motorists to boycot the international petrolleum companies like BP in an attempt to keep fuel prices affordable…not practical. Alas, a sad fact of life, when a change makes your work easier [whether or not it will benefit the next person], the chances that one would fight against that change are slim. Apartheid taught us that, the majority of the whites in the period described in Lisa’s blog, were very happy with the idea that Blacks should be forced to learn in Afrikaans as this would make their lives easier from a communication perspective, irrespective of the impact it would have on them. Thus, the violent way in which the government of the time reacted. The ememy the students of the Apartheid faced was tangible you could see the caspers, choke on the tear gas, see you parents being harrassed, be referred to as the “Swart Gevaar” etc. etc…its not the same, the enemy now is a lot more illusive, the youth structures that existed then, don’t exist now and with the huge and many changes that have occured in the education sector in the past few years, I have a feeling very few people know what good education looks like on paper and honestly if a white child was in the same situation, they wouldn’t know how to mobilise either!


    This is not by far a justification of matric results issue and as a HR Practioner and an OD Manager, I am fully aware of the hugely negative impact this has on future skills of SA. So where to from here?

  • Colin Dovey

    Ironically, the education system in Zimbabwe was SUPERB. We could learn from what they were doing on our doorstep a long time ago. It had NOTHING to do with race. Ask ANY Zimbabwean living, and teaching right here in SA. But standards are also also shot to pieces there. If you attempt to find the truth, you cannot get that, because it is being heavily censored: “

    “Oops! Google could not find http://www.zimguardian.com

     But the problem in SA is, will ANYBODY here listen? Certainly not Blade Nzimande – he has got another agenda. The Minister of Basic Education, Ms MA Motshekga has a better idea…..but will she be able to save what is already a sinking ship? 

  • Tim Madgwick

    Thanks Lisa for an excellent blog.

    It is so sad that our government has sacrificed education and our future for their selfish needs such as power & money. It shows how immature we are as a country, we talk about equal rights and ubuntu yet abuse our children by not educating them. We base employment on race and entrench discrimination against white males.

    I believe that it is time for voters to vote by logic not emotion and for all of us to work towards a democratic society where there is mutual respect and zero racism.  We have to start with good basic education that is of a high standard and stop the lowering the standards just to gain political brownie points.

  • Don Leffler

    Hi Lisa
    Thanks for a brilliant read !!!! It is so important to remember the past so as to grow for the future. Regrettably, South Africans are generally apathetic and it is alarming that parents accept the education system which prevails. Earlier this year we were filled with optimism following the Education For All campaign, but what has come of that? Our FET Colleges and our School systems are again under the spotlight as they are every year, but there seems to be little progress. Presently we face huge unemployment and these statistics will increase substantially with the matrics and graduates of 2010 coming into the job market. Billions are spent on education each year but there is little return on this investment. Position shuffling within the Ministry does little to address the situation and the outlook is dismal. Surely, we as parents and interested stakeholders, need to say “enough is enough” and hold accountable those in control of the country’s education strategy…………