Democracy brought so many changes in South Africa, from bad to good as was intended during the struggles. Ironically, our education system teachers are doing the opposite: from bad to worse. Teaching is no longer an ideal profession is it was a case during the struggles. This essay looks at what happened and suggest some possible solutions.
Very often, we read about teachers having sexual relationships with learners. One teacher once pointed fingers to the media that it target teachers. This however, in my views is not a fact. I remember a conversation with fellow students when we (student teachers) were about to go for a six week practical training. They spoke of the “fantastic private joy” derived from young girls who always seek their attention. They claim to have been doing it from the past two years without being caught. How can we expect them to stop it once they are fully assigned to learners? Parents just don’t have the alternative but to surrender their children to people who are always in the news for all the bad reasons ranging from alcohol abuse to sexual scandals. How one can expect a mature child under this guide?
Writing about media exposition, perhaps one can find a reason or two (when looking with one defensive eye, of course) why teachers were respected then; People were not that much educated, they were only thinking of teachers as legends. Secondly, people did not have much access to the media and incidents were not reported. It is clear in this view that teachers should have lost their dignity long time ago because of how they behave. These are teachers who were not much entertaining and did not allow too much democracy when it comes to school work. Learners had to know the whole book or be whipped off. In today’s language teachers were feared, not respected as it is said, and not only by learners but even the parents.
In South Africa and around the world, we find so many people who have failed somewhere else go for teaching. They first pride themselves to be good enough to study education (teaching) and when things get tougher in their first choice career paths, switch to teaching via a PGCE (Professional Graduate Certificate in Education) program. This program is a spit in the face to real teachers who eagerly went for teaching from the first place. It is too short and only focus in classroom practices leaving out all necessary techniques to assist struggling learners and policy interpretation requirements. The fact that a person is running away from his profession should be enough to scrutinise a person’s competency. It is this kind of behaviour that paint teachers with the same brush in the eyes of the public that people who are teachers have failed somewhere else, they are not competent and that they are comfortable in constituting the mess currently in our education.
Economic crisis around the world is another contributing factor. People don’t find jobs because in most cases, they receive incompetent education. Long ago, only few learners got distinctions as compared to current education system where you find a school producing nine learners with six distinctions at each subject but have no or very few required skills. Surely, the education standard is questionable and the first people to blame are teachers. Perhaps large population has to do with the standard of education: As more and more pupils need schools, more teachers are needed. This means quick and fast training of teacher (and all the other means to attract people who never dream of teaching) to meet the high population demand. These processes indirectly lower the standard of education to accommodate these fast trained teachers and to allow time for them to settle at the expense of innocent learners. Whatever the reason from the above, if education system does not prepare learners to survive the harsh world, in the eyes of the public, teachers are to blame for victimising learners.
It further seems most teachers receive training that does not fully equip them or they are just ignorant. For an example, teachers are supposed to know when to discipline, how and the limitations and their legal rights. Very often, parents fail to properly raise their children due to their very busy lifestyles and shift their responsibilities to teachers. These are children who come to school with lots of complications and easily fall for peer pressures which in turn manifest in very bad behaviour. Teachers then when not properly trained in education laws, do not know how to discipline or when ignorant, just find an excuse to children’s rights which over-powers teachers. Whatever the reason, no parents want to hear that a teacher failed to do his job. Teachers are to blame.
All being said, teachers are entirely responsible to establish the recognition and respect they think they deserve. It is time people stop shifting their responsibilities to others. If one look at the recent Eastern Cape education “Go Slow” chaos, you will see how much teachers don’t care about children’s education. They have become too obsessed to materialistic objects and become more and more selfish every day. They are at the state of mind whereby they don’t teach from their hearts but to get the highest profit possible. It is perhaps one of the reasons teachers do not teach their biological children: They want to find a suitable culprit or school to blame when a child fails in the processes of getting richer. It is however notable that nothing can never change and so do the teachers absent recognition can still be achieved.
If we really want to understand these teachers’ shortfalls, we have to look at how they got to teaching. Higher institutions admission policies are questionable when it comes to education studies. Very often, you find underperforming students or rejects from first choice courses switching to education because universities give the impression that it is a comfort zone for the incompetents. I am not saying becoming a teacher should be difficult but these are the very important realities necessary to understand and prevent future shortfalls. If universities accept anyone to teaching, it means a declining of quality at secondary schools and thus very few learners will make it to universities which must than respond by decreasing admission requirements or loose clients from the mess they created themselves.
Universities need to introduce admission systems that also assess non-academic achievements which could include biological questionnaires that attempt to find out who is the real person who want to work with these dynamic young minds. They (universities) should also attempt to admit well-rounded individuals from various aspects. Potentials as leadership, sporting and social engagements, language and communication skills and community based activities surely mould an ethically sound, caring and humble being to work with inquisitive young minds. South Africa is known for making good policies and laws which then end in theories because no one enforce it. Universities should help with developing codes of conduct with as less loop-hole as possible to refrain any teachers from misusing his authorities.
Still at universities, I think student teachers need to be trained by highly dedicated individuals. Lecturers themselves must be competent. To train a person to work with a machine is totally different from training a person to deal with young ever changing minds. There are instances where you find student teachers very busy but learning nothing in the process. Currently, I and other honest fellow students are counting down to the graduation day where we will get our degrees certifying we are teachers when very less has change in our behaviours.
We master the content for progress purposes and never bother ourselves with it again. The culture of lifelong learning has not yet been enforced. This is why the majority of student teachers are aiming to work for very same dysfunctional schools that crawled them to the university; they fear challenges because they have never seen any in their lives. There is nothing wrong with “beginning a charity at home” if a student is aiming to help change the school not to add to the existing chaos. The university has to see to it that teachers receive the highest quality education from highly motivated (not just highly qualified), dedicated and inspirational personnel with the ability to fully influence a “an ideal teacher attitude”
Currently, curriculum developers seems to only include teachers with the same views (they claim to have worked with teachers) when developing curriculums. When teachers fail to implement it, they point fingers to curriculum developers who point teachers. This however, hampers development. When the curriculum is developed the sense of ownership should be developed to teachers because at the end of the day they are the ones who implement it. They need continuous support and quality control which does not only intend to emphasize their weaknesses as it currently seems and bring back the love and spirit of dedicated teachers.