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

By lisaamandabradshaw, 7 December, 2010

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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