I was in my home province, KwaZulu Natal, a few weeks ago. Spending a few days in my hometown of Stanger, also known as KwaDukuza, was pleasant as always.
While there, I visited my high school teachers. Meeting them was a wonderful, humbling experience. It reminded me of my beginnings.
The first teacher I met taught me maths in grade 12. He is now principal in one of the primary schools in the region. A remarkable man who contributed time and resources in my growth when I was a young star. I am who I am today because of him; and other teachers who supported me in my pursuit of education. If these teachers had not shown up in my life, I may have been telling a different story today.
The conversation with my maths teacher, in his office, over coffee and tea, was intellectual. It focused on the matters of South Africa’s public education. Though I thought it was important to have the dialogue, I found the content unpleasant; because it was more about the ills of the country’s public education system. I listened more than I spoke. I have not taught in South Africa’s public education system since 1984, my maths teacher has.
His thought is that South Africa's public education system is a disaster. That the education officials and administrators do not take education seriously. He also pointed to the teachers union the South African Democratic Teachers Union (SADTU) as one of the culprits in the weakening of education. The union puts members’ interest first, not children’s education, he said.
Administrators can be a joke. During our discussion, he recalled one regional education director who assigned a mathematics literacy teacher to teach English in one of the schools in Stanger. How do you take a teacher qualified to teach mathematics literacy, and assign him to English? Such irresponsible decisions are amongst the things that harm South Africa's public education and disadvantage children.