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The South African Democratic Teachers’ Union (SADTU), the largest organised labour formation in the public sector, notes the release of the 2021 matric results with a sense of pride on the class and their teachers. The results, as released, indicate an overall marginal improvement of 0,2% as compared to the previous year.
Nothing short of incredible for what our class of 2021 and teachers have achieved over the last traumatizing two years! The achievement will obviously be drowned down by the recent time- wasting debate by political experiments and a deliberate misrepresentation of the 30% pass requirement
The class of 2021 was the largest to date of the National Senior Certificate. A total of 704 021 learners wrote their final examinations, with the lowest absenteeism rate recorded thus far of 3.98%. This means that the number of learners that eventually wrote the examinations out of those who entered Grade12 either on a full or part-time basis improved as compared to the previous years.
It is our well-considered view that the 2021 matric cohort is extra-ordinary and deserves to be commended because they faced unprecedented circumstances leading to their final examinations. We commend the Class of 21 for their resilience. they lost a significant amount of contact time with their educators in both Gr 11 and 12 due to COVID related lockdown regulations.
We also want to congratulate and commend educators, examination markers and invigilators, support personnel, parents, guardians, and the broader communities that had to endure the same levels of anxiety and stress as they afforded these learners with the necessary support.
The educators of the class of 2021 had to undertake extra-ordinary measures and sacrifices to support the said class. This class and their educators had to deal with the rotational timetabling over the last two years that had an adverse impact on their learning. Education workers had to be innovative to the extent of sacrificing family time in a Herculean effort to cover the curriculum.
We also want to pay our respects to those education workers that lost their lives due to COVID-19 over the past two years. Their sacrifice is not negligible, they were at the forefront of ensuring that even the poorest receive an education under COVID-19 pandemic conditions. Let us also thank those that heeded our call as a union to vaccinate when the opportunity presented itself for the sector, we are also encouraging them to get the relevant booster shot so that the sector can return to normalcy as rapidly as possible.
We should, as a country, appreciate parents who do not auction their responsibilities to what we see emerging so-called concerned parents with no children in any school shutting down our schools as part of a political campaign. Parents must refuse to be parented. Our members are being intimidated by this rogue group that want to be a parent of parents. We call on the department and law enforcement agencies to help our school management teams when our schools are shut down by these “concerned parents”.
Importantly, it remains our position that the matric results are being unnecessarily elevated into a central assessment tool for the efficiency of our education system. We believe that the media hype around matric results that influences the national discourse is misplaced and rather short sighted.
The release of the results often leads to an unnecessary “beauty contest” between the provinces thus diverting our collective attention from the real challenges in the sector. It is worth mentioning that provinces have differing subjective conditions, and this has direct impact on the outcomes thereof. Some largely rural provinces like KZN, Limpopo, Eastern Cape, Mpumalanga must deal with entirely different conditions as compared to provinces like the Western Cape and Gauteng.
The learning journey is composed of 12 formal grades and the Early Childhood Development phase; they are all equally important as part of the value chain. The most efficient education systems in the world have a particular focus on Early Childhood Development.
The cognitive development of our learners is almost entirely dependent on the Early Childhood Development phase. It is our view that there should be an increased investment into this sector by ensuring that work conditions are uniform across the various provinces and that the practitioners are exposed to continuous professional development initiatives.
The digital divide
Our education system has been over the past two years faced with extreme challenges that illuminated the drastic inequality gap. It should be borne in mind that during the implementation of the stricter lockdown conditions that disrupted the sector, other learners and teachers could continue with their tasks whilst the significant majority in township and rural schools could not. It is our view that the glaring digital divi needs to be addressed as a matter of a national emergency.
It is quite conspicuous that the digital divide between the “have’s and “have’s not” is bound to lead to the detriment of our economic development objectives.
We are calling on the private sector, including telecommunications companies to proactively invest towards the national agenda to narrow the inequalities that continue to characterise our education system
Indigenous Languages and Curriculum Transformation Towards Decolonisation of the System
SADTU is concerned with the decline in percentage points pass rate of some of the indigenous languages. It is worrisome that at the time when we are trying to affect a tangible agenda to decolonise the education system, we seem to be taking a few steps backwards in terms of elevating indigenous languages to academic languages of instruction at the school level.
We have always advocated for the prioritisation of indigenous African languages so that we can, in real measurable terms, move towards the decolonisation of our system. It is our view that this critical element is a key requirement towards us educating the young people of this country about their origins, values, ethics, to have a sense of pride in their identity and thus to appreciate the role and responsibility towards their communities and the broader society.
It is also our view that there needs to be greater collaboration between the DBE and the Department of Higher Education such that there can be a coherent and measurable strategy on elevating indigenous languages to those of academia and instruction at the basic education level.
Gateway & Technical Subjects
The Union is concerned with the decline in some gateway subjects like Accounting. It is our view that for the economy to be transformed to a knowledge economy, we have to cultivate the required technical skills. Whilst we appreciate the fact that several technical subjects have been added in the system, we want to see this being complimented by the appropriate educational infrastructure to see our learners through.
This is again another area that exposes the glaring inequalities in the education system. The higher quintile schools often have the required resources for technical subjects whilst the poor rural and township schools do not have the same exposure. We are once again calling on the government of the day to ensure that rural and township schools are moved towards the level of higher quintile schools in terms of infrastructure.
As things stand, we have no less than 300 schools that still have pit latrines today of our democracy. We still have challenges of delivering the Learning and Teaching material in provinces like the Eastern Cape. What is saddening is that austerity measures are being applied in the sector and others through the back door. In real terms, the education budget has been declining in terms of the resources that would be dedicated to infrastructure development for instance.
It is also our hope that the Special Schools should be prioritised such that no child will be left behind. Public education is the backbone of any nation and inclusive and relevant programmes are long necessary.
The COVID Scenario in the Sector
Our collective reality is that the COVID-19 pandemic is still a reality negatively affecting the sector. Given the disruptions in the past two years due to the pandemic, we are calling on South Africans to take any available opportunity to receive their COVID-19 jabs. It is in our interest as a society to ensure that as many South Africans do receive their jabs so that the education system can return to normalcy. The rotational scheduling disadvantaged both the learners and teachers quite significantly; we would like to see this scheduling coming to an end, but it cannot happen if the safety of both the learners and teachers is not guaranteed. Taking the jab has proven to reduce the spread of the pandemic and this may provide some safety guarantee if everyone took the vaccine.
We are concerned with the closure of no less than 11 schools in the Mkhambathini region of KZN due to battles related to the traditional authorities. One school closed is one school too many; every child deserves to receive education as a human right, and a teacher in front of them. We find it extremely regrettable that some communities see it as a necessary tactic to disrupt learning and teaching in their localities as a bargaining chip for other demands. It is our strong view that education remains a sacrosanct right for our children irrespective of the community based challenges of the day.
To this end, SADTU is rolling out her “I AM a School Fan” campaign which is meant to mobilise all stakeholders in the sector to play their role towards ensuring that the schooling environment is safe for both teaching and learning.
Issued by SADTU Secretariat