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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Don’t Treat Me Like a Mushroom!

Posted on May 30, 2011. Filed under: rickywoods, teaching | Tags: , , , |

If you always feed me garbage and keep me in the dark, I begin to feel like a mushroom.

Welcome to the world of being an employee of the state.  I am a well-qualified, professional person who, in the corporate world would be accorded the respect (and the salary) I deserve. I have a number of post-graduate qualifications and more than 25 years’ experience in my field. I also run the largest department at my place of employment, with acknowledged success, I might add.

Why is it then that the people who hold the purse strings never manage to get things right? I would like to cite some examples by way of explanation:

  • Three years ago I was officially promoted into a post I had filled (unofficially) for the previous two years. This meant a nominal increase, for which I was most grateful. Six months later all educators (oh, I forgot to tell you that I am a teacher) were awarded something called an Occupation Specific Dispensation increase  –  related specifically to being educators. Things were looking up!
  • Three months later I was informed that as I had only been in that promotion post for six months, I did not qualify for the increase, so they were going to be deducting the amount that I had been given, in monthly increments over the next two years.
  • Then in September last year educators all over South Africa went out on strike for better wages, housing and medical benefits. The union to which I belong called for a show of solidarity, so I struck (if that is the right word) for one day, knowing that I would not be paid.
  • In February this year we were told that, owing to an administrative issue they were not able to distinguish between those who had struck for one day, or those who had downed tools ( or is that chalk?) for longer. Thus, they would deduct four days’ pay from us all and at some stage ( not specified) in the future they would refund us what was owed.
  • Add to this the fact that any salary advice reconciliation is only ever received three or four months after the relevant pay date and you have a recipe for disaster.
  • Where in the corporate world does it happen that someone is given something and then has it taken away?  Who would tolerate not knowing from month to month what they will earn – or having any way to find out?

I love my job. I love being in the classroom with teenagers who are alive and fresh and new every day. I love the fact that they teach me – often far more than I will ever teach them.  I love the fact that relating to them on a daily basis keeps my mind open to the changes that are inevitable in life.

But who ever said that in order to be a teacher, you have to be treated like a mushroom?

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