SADTU Limpopo Media Statement urges Basic Education Minister to stop blaming Teachers for Poor Matric Results

29 January 2016

SADTU Limpopo Province is concerned about ministerial utterances regarding poor matric performance.

Continuous and consistent utterances of "consequences" to underperforming schools, districts and provinces is the cheapest and easiest gimmick the Department of Education is resorting to in an attempt to account for their failure and convince the public about lack of action, intervention and planning for matric performance and total functioning of the department.

It is our conviction that the department is picking-up low lying fruits by talking about consequences for the so-called underperforming schools, districts and Provinces. To us, the matter is not about underperforming schools, districts and provinces but this has everything to do with poor planning by the department and poor provision of teachers in schools.

This is evident in that most schools that performed poorly are small schools with serious shortages of teachers and in other instances, teachers teach subjects that they do not specialise in or were inadequately trained. The major problem attributed to poor performance is the post provisioning model that the department is using to provide teachers in schools. Currently, most secondary schools in Limpopo are going to shed many posts due to Rationalisation and Redeployment (transfer of teachers) due to the wrong model that is only based on learner enrolment.

As SADTU Limpopo, we want to sound a word of caution that if the current post provision process is not changed, worse situations must be expected wherein matric results will decline further. Actually, this is a ticking time bomb close to bursting.

Schools are going to be burdened due to reduced staff and small schools will continue to underperform because of lack of teachers.

The negative and easy approach of threatening consequences without any intention to cause a real paradigm shift is narrow, shallow and easy. Indeed, to us it is a matter of picking low lying fruits or rather targeting lizards and leaving out crocodiles that are eating performance of our learners. It is just a mere public exercise again trying to convince people whilst it intends to make no real meaningful positive change for the performance our learners.

Whilst the Union does not want to defend mediocrity and laziness by officials, we are convinced that the issue is beyond the efficiency of teachers and managers.

Actually; the problem of poor performance of schools is systemic. The department is failing to plan and intervene in the systemic challenges that are evident and contribute towards this poor performance.

Matric results in 2015 reflected that Provinces that are better-off in terms of teacher provisioning, were high on the list e.g. Gauteng; Western Cape and Free State whilst Provinces that are hard-hit by this inadequate teachers provisioning are at the bottom list of poorly performing schools. Any sane person will consider the issue of resource distribution in the country if a genuine intervention is to be achieved. Provinces, districts/Regions that are hard-hit in terms of resources distribution are mostly at the bottom of the list.

The Union calls for calm and sober thinking in intervening on the matric and school performance and avoid being driven by emotions and lose sight of real problems at play. We believe in the support, intervention and consequences later rather than consequences, support and intervention.

SADTU calls on the department and all stakeholders to take responsibility and cause real positive changes that will improve learner performance in all grades including matric. We want to caution on actions that are agitated by anger and denial of systemic challenges in the department. These kinds of agitations and utterances, based on anger, remind us of what Professor Jansen once said about policies developed without any intention to cause real change in classroom and learner performance but create an empty perception that the department is doing something about the situation.

If these utterances of "Consequence" without any intervention and support are left unattended and they continue to be the narrative of the Department of Education, they leave us with no option but to conclude that; "It is a story told by a fool, full of sound and fury, but signifying nothing," as Shakespeare once proclaimed.

Prepared by SADTU Limpopo Province Secretariat