Speech delivered in the National General Council of the South African Democratic Teachers Union by COSATU 1st Deputy President, Comrade Tyotyo James

25 November 2011, Velmore Estate

The President of SADTU, comrade Thobile Ntola
The entire NEC of SADTU

Delegates of SADTU from across the length and breadth of the country I greet you in the name of our struggle to transform the South African Education System.

I greet you in the name of our struggle for Quality Public Education. As COSATU we are pleased to have been invited to address the soldiers who occupy the front ranks of the struggle for a free and democratic system of education in South Africa.

We salute you the members for having built this union SADTU into an effective instrument of war to totally eradicate the painful legacy of colonialism and apartheid education.

We also want to salute you for having built this union over the years into a revolutionary unions that do not exclusively and narrowly focus on education but you have built it and defined its character in the actual battlefield and has emerged as an effective instrument which shapes a transformative programme of national reconstruction and development.

I want to warn you right from the onset that there is a growing tendency to open every meeting with an acknowledgement that there was a global economic crisis and usually this is done as a prelude to prepare us for the imposition of austerity measures which include cutting on social spending.

So this time around we will proceed on the bases that we are aware about the man-made economic crisis which is currently casting the USA and Europe to panic and expect all of us to panic with them. We want sustainable solutions that will not make us to be future slaves created by their economic crisis.

One report points out that Ultimately, the world economy will recover from the recession, but the crisis could create a lost generation of children in the worlds poorest countries whose life chances will have been irreparably damaged by a failure to protect their right to education.

For those individuals and communities most immediately affected, failure to sustain progress would impose a high price in diminished opportunities to escape poverty and vulnerability.

But whole countries also stand to lose out as weaker progress in education leads to slower economic growth, reduced job creation, deteriorating public health and a more marginal place in the increasingly knowledge-based global economy.

So let us focus on what matters the most Education

A report by the UN nations report shows that, the world urgently needs to recruit more than 8 million extra teachers, if we are to achieve universal access to primary education by 2015. The report says that at least an additional 6.2 million teachers will need to be recruited to maintain current workforces and replace those expected to retire or leave classrooms due to career changes, illnesses, or death.

According to Enescos projections, the greatest challenges lie in sub-Saharan Africa, where more than 1 million teaching posts will need to be created by 2015 to meet the needs of a growing number of primary students. Population growth and the push to get all children into school by 2015 have led enrolment rates to soar in many countries, but quality of education will remain a prime concern if countries fail to get enough teachers into classrooms.

The report said that a total of 350 000 teachers should be hired in sub-Saharan Africa each year until 2015 to fill new posts and compensate for teachers expected to leave the workforce, said the report. It projects that by 2015 South Africa will need more than 242 000 new educators.

The task confronting teachers today in the world is to develop the necessary skills and passion to up the task of teaching the 759 million illiterate youths and adults in the world.The 2011 UNICEF report on the state of world children shows that out of 1.2 billion teens on the planet, 70 million are out of school.
The report shows that children from developing countries are mostly negatively affected. It says that only 5% of teenagers in Tanzania enroll in secondary school; whilst 100% of teenagers in Sweden do.

The report also shows that 81 million young people are unemployed and 15-24 year olds make up one-quarter of the worlds working poor. The report shows that youth unemployment remains a concern in almost every country. An increasingly technological labour market requires skills that many young people do not possess.

This not only results in a waste of young peoples talents, but also in a lost opportunity for the communities in which they live. In many countries large teenage populations are a unique demographic asset that is often overlooked. By investing in adolescent education and training, countries can reap a large and productive workforce, contributing significantly to the growth of national economies.

That same age group is also one third of news AIDS case each year. There is a similar reality in South Africa.

This means that the biggest task confronting teachers is to be conscious of the fact that teaching is not just getting into class and stand in front of learners but it is to execute it as a revolutionary task of preparing a skilled labour force that can make a qualitative contribution in the economic life of the country. It is about creating a new citizenry that can occupy strategic places of our economy and change the colonial patterns of social relations that continues to define blank and African in particular only as a worker and his counterpart as being white who is in charge.

We are sick and tired of looking at our youth being taken up by trucks and vans to be exploited yet again even under democracy.We are sick and tired of seeing our black and African youth growing under conditions of poverty only to remain trapped in poverty when they become adults.We can no longer afford to contain ourselves when in this day and age an African girl is still being robbed of an opportunity to learn because of conditions that coerces her into early pregnancy.

We want to work with teachers to ensure that a classroom becomes an extension of a battle field and war room against the legacy of colonialism, apartheid and capitalism that continues to destroy the world and set humanity against itself because it instills a value system of greed

We want to work with teachers to make school's extended revolutionary war room to instill a new value system of social solidarity instead of individualism that continues to destroy our society.

It is clear in our mind that whilst the employment of teachers is critical but the fact of the matter is not how many teachers have been employed but what-and how well they teach.

We know that an important aspect of the education system is quality. In our view five aspects define quality education i.e. the learning environment, what learners and educators bring curriculum content, teaching and learning processes and support systems for learners and teachers, outcomes of the education system. It is clear in our minds that there are things which must happen concurrently and that is, as we call for educators to be in class on time teaching equally government must at the very same time be delivering the required resources.

I want to emphasize that by all means, we wan t our teachers to teach our children and not give resources as an excuse but the reality of the matter is that no scientist can be produced under conditions where there is no laboratory.You will only produce learners who pass and fail dismally in their first year at university until they change their first choice career of being scientist or engineers.Provision of resources and infrastructure in schools is not just about addressing an excuse by some lazy teachers.

There is evidence that teachers do their work but it takes twice as much effort and twice as long to impart knowledge where there are no resources or teaching media with an added burden of mother tongue barrier.It is unacceptable that 93% of schools have no libraries or libraries are not stocked and that 88% of schools have no laboratories, or laboratories are not stocked.How can we produce computer literate learners or computer specialists when 81% of schools have no computers or more than 100 learners share a computer?We will continue to apportion blame to teachers about high failure rate when we do not change the serious limiting constraint of any pedagogic process that 62% of our schools have a learner educator ratio that exceeds 30.

It is clear in our minds that we cannot see progress in the quality of education if we do not focus on undoing apartheid and colonial training that renders our educators into the shame of inadequacy and maintained the inherent cycle of mediocrity.
We need to break from this colonial trap by focusing on effective and sustainable teacher development.

This will mean that we implement the Polokwane resolution of creating teacher development institutes as centres of training, development and support, in line with re-opening colleges and to create a robust system of teacher development based on two pillars:

  1. teacher appraisal to identify weaknesses; and
  2. support, training and mentoring.

Teachers development must be coupled with a process that enhances possibilities for success and realization of quality. These include reducing classes to manageable sizes across the system: a learner-educator ratio of less than 20 should be targeted over the medium term.

This requires the employment of a large number of additional teachers, and building of classrooms.

We wish this NGC to be a resounding success