Receive our revolutionary greetings as the 18th NEC. This media briefing seats after our first NEC meeting that was held this weekend in Tshwane, the seating deliberated on vast issues that affect learners and also things that must be added in the curriculum of our educational system
The 18th NEC reached an agreement that agriculture, history, and computer literacy must be compulsory in all schools in the Republic. Furthermore, it said learners must learn an African history, not a Western colonial history that will defocus our learners in making sure that they build our economy. We are also in support of the ANC resolution that says all black people must get their land back by making sure that agriculture becomes a compulsory subject. We also declared this year as a year of restoring unity and order in all MDM structures, the year of Oliver Tambo. The meeting also agreed that all individuals affected by albinism must get free sun-screen and spectacles.
Our objective context
In 2016 we witnessed young people across the country express their dissatisfaction with the commodification of education through rolling mass demonstrations. This movement which started towards the end of 2015 captured the imagination of our society and has since been referred to as #FeesMustFall. Our position on the issues that were raised and expressed by students during the fees must fall campaign is that we support students at tertiary institutions in their struggle and generational battle cry for the de-commodification of education. We further hold the position that all private sector companies, with a specific reference to the mining industry and the banking industry, which are exploiting our parents and extracting profit in our land must allocate capital and finance to academically deserving students who come from impoverished backgrounds so that they can further their studies at tertiary institutions.
The basic education environment, which hosts our constituency, is equally confronted with many challenges. Key amongst these challenges are the following;
- The timeous delivery of learning material – whilst progress has been made in this regard, this problem has not been completely eliminated. We must work tirelessly towards the total eradication of this phenomenon as it disadvantages poor learners in particular.
- The shortage of classrooms – this phenomenon results in classroom overcrowding as well as learning under trees or in the open. A high learner-teacher ratio means that the process of teaching and learning is compromised also to the great disadvantage of poor learners. Furthermore, the temporary measure of mobile classrooms reflects a lack of commitment towards finding a sustainable solution to the problem of classroom overcrowding. It has been argued that the cost of these mobile classrooms is as expensive as the cost of building permanent classroom facilities.
- The National School Nutrition Programme (NSNP) – the issue of quality assurance remains a major challenge and concern. This is because some private service providers act without ethics and subject poor learners to low-quality food. The recent example in Bloemhof, Thuto Lore Secondary School, where a learner died from eating an expired can of fish highlights this problem. We must continue to agitate for a proper regulation of NSNP service providers as well as effective accountability measures in the event of transgressions.
- Corporal punishment – whilst corporal punishment is illegal, many schools continue to practise it. The teachers who perpetrate this illegal practise are not brought to account, and in certain instances this has led to the death of learners. COSAS must scale-up its efforts to ensure that corporal punishment is removed from our schools and that perpetrators are struck-off from the profession.
- Sexual abuse of learners by teachers – many teachers continue to misuse their authority over learners for sexual favours. The shocking case of 30 learners that were impregnated by teachers in Bothithong High School in Kuruman, Northern Cape and the case of a learner gang-raped by a principal and two teachers in KZN, is an indication of the seriousness of this problem. This requires the combined action of COSAS, parents, the Basic Education Department and law enforcement authorities.
- Scholar transport – many schools remain without access to scholar transport, particularly in rural areas. This puts poor learners at a disadvantage as they often have to travel long distances under bad weather conditions. They are also subjected to crime and other risks during these very long trips. We call for the provision of scholar transport to all schools that require it.
- High dropout rates and low pass rates – a shocking number of learners who enrol in grade 1 do not reach matriculation. Furthermore, whilst there have been improvements in the matric pass rate, the failure rate remains too high. We are also aware that many learners that pass matric do so without meeting university entrance requirements. The maths and science pass rate also remains very low particularly amongst poor students in general and black students in particular.
- Shortage of Maths and Science teachers – the shortage of maths and science teachers contributes to the low output rate in these subjects. This puts our society as a whole in a disadvantage because the skills required by the 4th industrial revolution are centred around maths and science.
- A lack of professional integrity amongst teachers – we continue to witness many instances in our schools of teachers that do not prepare adequately for the classroom. In certain instances, teachers come drunk or babalaased. This phenomenon leads to the poor performance of learners owing to reasons they cannot control. COSAS must campaign fiercely against this problem.
- Racism in the classroom – the scourge of racism continues to find expression in the classroom. The many instances that have been exposed in this regard cannot go unnoticed. We must appreciate the effort of comrade Panyaza Lesufi for his effort in dealing decisively with this ugly social ill. More work needs to be done and COSAS needs to be at the forefront.
- African languages and history – language and history are at the centre of identity. The demise of African languages will lead to a society that is consumed by Western and colonial cultures. Without a clear understanding of our history, we will struggle to obtain social coherence and the strategic objective of obtaining united, democratic, non-racists, non-sexist and prosperous society will be a pipe dream. Furthermore, it has been repeatedly stated that the learning process is less difficult when delivered through mother-tongue.
- School safety – as an organisation we are concerned with the safety of learners in our schools due to lack of proper fencing and gates that are left unattended to. Each and every school should have security personnel to monitor movements. There are cases of learners who died in several schools. For example a 6year old pupil found in a toilet during school hours in Limpopo. We therefore blame the DBE on the lack of providing adequate security monitoring.
- School governing bodies (SGB’s) – the democratic governance of our schools is a fundamental pillar in our struggle to transform the education landscape. SGB’s are an important tool through which this pillar can be realised. COSAS has to work closely with the National Association of School Governing Bodies (NASGB), Representative Councils
of Learners (RCL’s), Progressive Teacher Unions such as SADTU, parents and other important stakeholders in an effort to continuously strengthen SGB’s.
As the 18th NEC of COSAS we pass our sincere condolences to the family of Companero Sindiso Magaqa the former SG of the ANCYL who never betrayed his generation. A selfless leader who did not use the ANC as alpha and omega to amass wealth from our government. A revolutionary soldier and guerrilla who was dedicated to the struggle of our generational battle cry for economic freedom in our life time.
We condemn the politically motivated killings taking places in various provinces such as the North-West Province. Moss Phakoe and Wandile Bozwane are an example of such brutal killings. This cannot be accepted as the culture of the ANC. We believe that political differences should be resolved politically not by shedding blood.
To quote Thomas Sankara, “Revolutionaries can be murdered but you cannot kill their ideas”.
COSAS has recently demonstrated how seriously it takes the issue of gender equality through the election of the first female president of COSAS, Comrade Sandra Baloyi. Subsequently, we elected a second female president, Comrade Zama Khanyase. We must continue to live by the example of our forbearers in this regard and ensure that this spirit also cascades down to our lower structures as well as all MDM structures.
Furthermore, we would like to render our support to Sibongile Mani who erroneously received 14 Million from Intellimali. It is uncalled for that the student gets blamed for an administrative error of the abovementioned company. The investigation into how this large amount of money was undetected for such a long period of time should be allowed to take its course without using the student as a scapegoat. Intellimali should have picked up this error and rectified it.