Archive for June, 2011

To Whine or Not To Whine

Posted on June 21, 2011. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , |

I did not submit a blog last week, despite my undertaking to write one every week as part of my discipline of writing.

Why? I was just so depressed. Once again my beloved profession has had to suck it up at the hands of an education department that mostly doesn’t know its nether regions from its elbow.

Ever since we became a democracy (?) the powers that be have been doing a duck and dive with regard to their demands and expectations of the
teaching profession. I can understand their wanting to move away from a system that perpetuated the wrongs of the past regime, but surely one does one’s homework before throwing it all out?

Instead, since then we have been revising the revisions of the revised OBE system. Every two or three years, amendments are made; an enormous
amount of money is spent; teachers are ‘trained’ by trainers who read long documents badly. Then things carry on for a while and before you know it, the process starts again.

The latest in a string of these is something called CAPS (Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statement) – methinks the word Research should have been added after Curriculum 🙂  Once again a great deal of to-ing and fro-ing and very little transparency has educators now facing another spate of ‘training’. One week ago we were told it was going to happen now – in our July Holidays!  Fortunately, our unions were awake and reminded them that we need a term’s notice before they take our holidays away. So, guess what we have to look forward to in September?

Needless to say, we were not a happy bunch of campers.

Until tonight, that is.

I have the privilege of teaching at an amazing school where, although sport is worshipped (we are South African, after all) matters cultural really have an important place both in and out of our curriculum. We are regularly treated to the talents of our various school bands, one of which has won acclaim nationwide in band competitions. Two years ago we produced the South African première schools’ version of the musical of Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables, playing nightly to full houses.

But tonight I was invited to an open rehearsal of the choir and our fledgling strings ensemble. It is cold, pretty much the middle of winter, but I needed to show my support so off I went. I was entranced. The strings opened with a beautiful rendition of Hornpipe by Handel, followed by a choral piece of Elgar’s. Then some angel voices captivated us with a range of numbers from Domine Deus by Regnart  to A Boy and a Girl by Whitacre. The concluding number was a combination of strings, choir and an additional bass guitar section in a compelling interpretation of Iris by Goo Goo dolls ( from the sound track of the movie City of Angels)

It was only an hour’s performance, but I left there totally transformed. My previously disheartened outlook had lifted and I began to remember why it is that I teach. I have a poster in my classroom that reads, “The Wonder of Teaching is Watching Caterpillars Turn into Butterflies”.

Tonight I saw Butterflies

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Stop Passing the Buck!

Posted on June 8, 2011. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , |

I was a student in Johannesburg on June 16th  1976,,when all hell broke loose in Soweto. I watched in horror when those iconic pictures hit the news of Hector Pieterson being carried in the arms of Mbuyisa Makhubo, after he had been shot by the police. I knew then thatlife as we had known it in South Africa was going to change forever.

There was almost a whole generation of students who knowingly gave up their opportunity for education in order for those who followed to benefit from their sacrifices. As students we tried to help them with extra lessons and were thrilled when our efforts enabled some of those disadvantaged youngsters to pass their matric.

I became a teacher and was thrilled when, almost ten years later, I was finally able to teach in a democratically free South Africa. I knew that it would take time for the injustices of the past to be redressed, but I believed that if we all played our part this time would happen sooner rather than later.

It is fifteen years since Democracy yet the Eastern Cape where I now find myself, is still embattled by a hangover from those days of injustice. Other provinces appear to have left the past behind them and are getting on with the business of education, but only this past month the National Government had to step in as they put our Provincial Education Department under administration.

On morning television yesterday I heard the premier of our Province duck and dive when she was quizzed about the reason for this. It is, of course, all the fault of an inherited legacy! There was no transparency in the past – and now they are totally transparent (yeah, right!).

When she was asked about financial mismanagement, it was also called the fault of the past regime.  In her own words, it took at least five years before past matters were resolved (Ok, that was ten years ago – what has happened since then?)

Money that is allocated to a budget but not spent is returned to the provincial coffers. This has happened in the Eastern Cape a number of times. In the meantime, school feeding schemes have been abandoned, ostensibly owing to lack of funds. So too, the school transport system that sees to getting thousands of rural children to school every day.

When are they going to stop passing the buck? When are they going to accept the fact that it has stopped – right at their feet? They can no longer blame the injustices of the past – horrific as they were– for the mismanagement that is happening right now, and for which they are culpable.

Next week we commemorate June 16th again. If the politicians, who came into power on the ticket of addressing the inequalities of the past, cannot do their jobs then it is time to hand over the reins to those who can – but without justifying their incompetence by once again passing the buck to the ‘legacy of the past’. That has just become so old!


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