Category: PSAM in the News

Msindisi Fengu

Lunga Siquku* finds it difficult to answer questions written in his home language, isiXhosa. He is among 78% of South Africa’s Grade 4 pupils who cannot understand what they read. This is what results showed when the pupils were tested on literacy skills in languages used at their schools and in the language they spoke the best.

Although Lunga failed isiXhosa, his first additional language, he was allowed to pass because the rest of his marks were good. “I struggle with comprehension. A teacher, or my mother, has to help me to understand and answer questions,” said the boy, who speaks both isiXhosa and English at home. At least the 10-year-old, who goes to a former Model C school in East London, does far better in English as his first language subject.

His mother, Noxolo*, says his school is lacking in books and other materials in isiXhosa.

According to Professor Sarah Howie, national research coordinator at the University of Pretoria, this is one of the reasons South Africa’s Grade 4s fared the worst out of 50 countries in the 2016 Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (Pirls) report, released this week.

Last year, a sample of 12 810 Grade 4 pupils from 293 schools were tested in the language they had used at school in Grades 1 to 3, as well as the language with which they were most familiar.

The study results released this week coincided with Wednesday’s release of The Pedagogy of Mathematics in SA, a book by the Mapungubwe Institute for Strategic Reflection which highlighted the importance of African languages in teaching maths, especially in lower grades.

“Without an adequate level of cognitive academic language proficiency in their home language, there is little hope of achieving the levels of interaction and co-construction of understanding in a second language,” the study found.

Howie cites the following additional reasons for the Grade 4s’ poor performance:

  • Poorly trained teachers in the foundation phase (grades 0 to 3) who use poor teaching strategies;
  • Universities no longer producing African-language teachers because it is not a popular course;
  • Some African-language teachers being unqualified to teach them, but because they are first language speakers, they are appointed to those posts; and
  • A scarcity of books written in African languages, as well as a shortage of well resourced school and community libraries, which diminishes a culture of reading in school and at home.

“Reading outcomes haves hardly changed”

Siyabulela Fobosi, an education expert at Rhodes University’s Public Service Accountability Monitor, said the provincial education department reported that it had filled only 108 out of 223 approved vacant library posts for the year 2016/17.

Fobosi said early childhood development also “remains underprioritised and underresourced by government”.

He said schools needed to be better supported and monitored to ensure that teachers did their jobs, pointing to the need for “routine and rigorous” teacher assessments to be conducted to correct teaching failures.

Elijah Mhlanga, spokesperson for the basic education department, said although progress had been made, the Pirls scores – especially for reading – were low and set weak foundations, which could result in pupils dropping out in senior grades.

“Despite numerous initiatives undertaken by national and provincial education departments in recent years, it would appear that reading outcomes have hardly changed since 2011,” said Mhlanga.

“The reality is that shifting learning and teaching on a large scale is a lot harder than one might think.”

Mhlanga said the department was trying to find ways to roll out the Early Grade Reading Study.

The study, which aims to improve home language reading in grades 1 to 3, has been piloted in 230 schools in the North West since 2015.

Mhlanga said a number of lessons were emerging. These included the need to train teachers and provide them with daily lesson plans, the need to offer them in-class support from specialists, and the need to involve parents in encouraging their children to read.

The coaching, he said, had helped boys catch up to girls. “One of the alarming results of the Pirls is that South African boys in Grade 4 are a full grade level behind girls. This is consistent with the data from the Early Grade Reading Study, in which large gender gaps were apparent at the start of Grade 1 and persisted thereafter. However, in those schools that received the coaching intervention, the gender gap was smaller.

“This is consistent with evidence that boys tend to respond worse than girls to poor or unstructured teaching.”

Mugwena Maluleke, the general secretary of the South African Democratic Teachers’ Union (Sadtu), said members were “deeply disturbed” by the Pirls results, but welcomed the study.

He said the union felt vindicated by some findings, including one that poor performance was the result of compromised teaching, manifested through the Annual National Assessments, which put teachers under pressure to shift from teaching for learning to teaching for tests.

Maluleke said Sadtu could not be blamed for the poor performance as there were many factors at play, the quality of teaching being just one of them.

*Not their real names

Msindisi Fengu

South Africa’s regulatory body for teachers will meet the heads of all provincial education departments next week to beg them to report those who beat or have sex with their pupils.
The SA Council for Educators (Sace) admits that teachers who are fired for sexual misconduct often simply resurface in other provinces, where they continue sexually abusing pupils.Sace spokesperson Themba Ndhlovu said officials had already met department of basic education director-general Mathanzima Mweli to discuss why provinces were not reporting misconduct cases.

There is a draft memorandum of understanding to be signed with provinces to ensure all cases against teachers are reported to Sace.

Ndhlovu said that, in some cases, education regional offices or whistle-blowers were the ones reporting cases to them. He said Sace had to send a team to the Northern Cape to investigate allegations of sexual misconduct involving teachers at school in Kuruman. Another team was dispatched to a school in KwaZulu-Natal, where a principal and a teacher allegedly gang-raped a schoolgirl.

“All those cases have been picked up by us from the media. We’ve already investigated. I’m aware that there will be action taken against those teachers involved,” he said.

Ndhlovu said there had been cases were statistics provided by provincial education departments did not correspond with those Sace had compiled. In addition, there was no coordination between reports from regional, district and provincial education departments.

The failure to report misconduct to Sace resulted in fired teachers finding work elsewhere.

“Some of these teachers go to independent schools. That is why we sought a legal opinion on how we inform society that a teacher has been fired for abuse. The legal opinion says we need to review our legislation because it is silent on disclosure.”

The sex offenders’ registry compiled by the justice department only keeps records of the names of teachers who were found guilty in court, not those disciplined for misconduct internally.

Sexual misconduct cases were supposed to be reported to Sace, the police and the department. However, Ndhlovu said they had had situations in which parents did not want their children to testify against a teacher, and they suspected that those families had been paid to keep quiet.

Basil Manuel, president of teachers’ union Naptosa, said they had picked up that cases were not being reported to Sace.

How many teachers abuse their pupils?

The latest figures, released by Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga in Parliament, show an increase of reported cases of sex abuse by teachers, as well as physical assault, fraud, theft and other financial misconduct between the 2011 and 2016 financial years.

On Friday, the chairperson of Parliament’s basic education portfolio committee, Nomalungelo Gina, told City Press that education officials and police had been called to appear before the committee on October 12 to account for the increase in reported incidents in schools.

“We believe this accounting session by the two departments will continue to elevate discussions around this matter. It requires continuous, in-depth, solution-oriented examination by society and government departments,” Gina said.

She said many possible explanations had been provided regarding these cases, including the violent nature of South African society, eroding family and social values, provocation by either pupils or teachers and a lack of alternatives to corporal punishment.

“However, when you consider some of the cases of abuse that have gone viral on social media, you question the psychological state of the perpetrators, who use excessive violence and perpetrate immoral abuse,” Gina said.

While Sace’s figures are woefully incomplete, the most recent study conducted by the Centre for Justice and Crime Prevention (CJCP) found that one in five pupils are exposed to sexual and physical violence in schools.

The study, conducted in 2012, found that violence was in some cases caused by vulnerable pupils from unstable families. Most of the victims were girls.

CJCP researcher Joanne Phyfer said many schools that were unsafe for girls were poorly managed and existing policies were not being implemented.

She said that, in some instances, there were poor or restrictive reporting systems and action was not taken against perpetrators.

Public Service Accountability Monitor education expert Siyabulela Fobosi said a new relationship between teachers, pupils and society was required.

Fobosi said education was being undermined by teachers’ sexual misconduct.

“Such behaviour by the teachers disrespects the student-teacher-society relationship. The classroom should be a safe place for learning – free of any form of violence and criminal activity.”

Prompt, punitive action should be taken against teachers found guilty of sexual misconduct or of assaulting pupils.

“The department must commission a full analysis of the sexual misconduct of teachers, as well as a decisive national action plan to address the larger issues of school violence and gender-based abuse,” Fobosi said.

The SA Democratic Teachers’ Union said it had represented members in sexual misconduct cases and, in some of these, the members were dismissed for sexual offences.

Spokesperson Nomusa Cembi said there had been cases involving their members in the Free State this year. She could not divulge any details.

Cembi said that, at times, their members did not report their offences, sought legal advice or resigned.


How should we deal with child abuse at schools?

By Linda Ensor

24 November 2017

URL Link: ecb4628ade72&key=Vb6JMCZJrtojkitt83st6w%3d%3d&issue=11062017112400000000001001



Civil society organisations have expressed concern about the integrity of the budget process and called on Parliament to ensure it is not undermined.

The organisations that have united in their stand to protect the budget process include the Public Service Accountability Monitor at Rhodes University, the University of Johannesburg, the Heinrich Böll Foundation, the Rural Health Advocacy Project and the Southern Africa Labour and Development Unit.

They have been joined by academics and social activists in calling on Parliament to probe the circumstances behind the growing number of senior officials who have resigned from Treasury and to show its support for credible and sustainable budget processes.

The organisations have also called on the Presidency to reaffirm the central, legislated role the Treasury plays in the budget process and commit to subjecting all major policy proposals, such as funding for higher education, to the rigour and consultation required of this process.

Their calls dovetail with the push by DA finance spokesman David Maynier to have Parliament’s finance committee hold a public hearing on the budget process including the roles of the finance ministry and the presidential fiscal committee and the factors that led to the resignation of the head of Treasury’s budget office, Michael Sachs, earlier in November.

Maynier fears that decision making about budget priorities, and the budget itself, has now been centralised under President Jacob Zuma and that the decisions of the presidential fiscal committee will undermine Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba’s committee on the budget.

The influence of the Treasury over the budget was declining, he said.

The concerns stem from the central role given to the Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation in determining the government’s spending priorities, which is seen as usurping the role of the Treasury. Also worrying has been the reported R40bn proposal by the Presidency for free higher education.

“Undermining of the budget process and National Treasury threatens the stability of public finances and critical areas of government spending,” the organisations said.

“Importantly, and irrespective of the merits and criticisms of budget allocations, Treasury has followed a specified procedure in the implementation of the budget, which includes ensuring that the budget is spent as planned and holding departments to account when it is not,” said the group.

“Diverting budget allocations outside of the established processes opens the gate for arbitrary and irregular reallocations in the future.”

Chairman of Parliament’s finance committee Yunus Carrim said the committee was happy to engage with civil society organisations on the budget process. He believed there was nothing wrong in the Presidency determining budget priorities in terms of the medium-term strategic framework and the National Development Plan.

“Plans have to shape budgets. While this approach by the government is correct, it can’t be abused and has to be effected in ways that ensure that the constitutional and legislative role of National Treasury in the budgeting process is adhered to, and that there is full accountability to Parliament and the public.”

Carrim said Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation Minister Jeff Radebe had told the finance committee the government was considering introducing a law on the budget process to ensure it was open and transparent. “Public involvement in this new process might also be included in the legislation,” Carrim said.

EFF chief whip Floyd Shivambu said he did not mind whether budget decisions were taken by the Presidency or the Treasury. The ultimate outcome would be the same.

“Our major interest is what gets prioritised and whether the state has the capacity to generate enough revenue to cover its basic obligations. The state must shift its focus onto nontax revenue in the context of declining tax revenues. It was not as if we were appreciative of the Treasury’s role anyway.”