I have always believed that it is the principals and teachers who are responsible for the children of the poor receiving an excellent education (not only schooling ).
Yes, we pay our taxes which must pay for the education of our children. Government continues to say they do not have enough money to fund education properly.
Yes, we must fight for more resources in schools but I have mentioned that in numerous articles in my Cape Argus column that our teachers have to see that our children get an excellent education.
I was in a recent workshop at a high school in Cape Town where I ran a workshop on the role of the Student Representative Council (SRC) now neutrally called Representative Council of Learners in the new SA. From 1980- 1996, we had SRCs. Government, under pressure from its former oppressors, changed the name to RCLs.
So the political history of SRCs was lost to generations of new South Africans. At the workshop, I emphasised the point students must receive an excellent education including a progressive political education.
A teacher at the workshop made the point that the reason why private schools and model C schools do well is that they have the resources. I disputed this. I said this is all in the mind. Our students can do well if they apply themselves. I said it is how we have been wired to think.
Yes, the private schools and model C schools have more teachers and more resources but this must never be an excuse amongst teachers, students and parents for our students not to do well.
At parent-teacher-student meetings, I emphasised that there is no excuse for teachers not doing their work, for students not applying themselves and where teachers see that parents are not supervising their children at home for teachers to assist.
During the apartheid years, we fought gutter education. Teachers like Victor Ritchie, Attie de Villiers, MN Moerat, Rhoda Hendricks and RO Dudley produced excellent results with the meagre salaries they were paid and meagre resources at school.
This is our country and the oppressed fought tooth and nail to give the children of the poor an excellent education.
Why is it that the products of the education system before 1994 produced people of excellence? The reason – our teachers have us hope.
They made us politically aware of what needs to be done and encouraged us to do well academically so that we could build an excellent society after the fall of apartheid.
With many people being negative quite rightly about the present situation in SA our schools and especially the teachers just like the teachers pre-1994 give our students hope and direction.
I found in my career as a teacher it was my interest in outside organisations which were interested in changing society that gave me the fire power to stand my ground against reactionary education authorities. I was then energised to go into the classroom and motivate the students.
Teachers will not be able to do this if they just remain in the classroom and are not energised by outside organisations in their community.
Teachers make a difference in society.
* Brian Isaacs obtained a BSc (UWC) in 1975, a Secondary Teacher’s Diploma in 1976, BEd (UWC) in 1981, and MEd (UWC) in 1992. He is a former matriculant, teacher and principal at South Peninsula High School.
** First published in Cape Argus