EDUCATION: Task-team Moves to Quell Teacher Tensions

What if instead of complaining about teacher strikes and go-slows we listened to teacher complaints with greater respect and removed some of the burdens from principals‘ Those questions led to the creation of a task team with Department of Education, parliamentary officials, and education and human resources experts that start this month.

The timing couldn’t be better. Teachers have begun a go-slow, which includes a refusal to mark supplementary exams.

Marjie Harrington, CEO of HR Support Solutions whose initiative this is, involved government and the private sector in her scheme to get unemployed human resources graduates jobs, and to relieve some of the pressures bedeviling principals. “ I’m the mom of school-going children and have a pretty good idea of the pressures teachers work under. Coupled with that I realized there were thousands of talented HR graduates without work, and at the same time over-extended school principals were battling to run schools.

“The answer was to create a win:win situation for both – train graduates to act as paid interns at schools. They earn valuable employment experience and remove some of the burden from principals.” The first 50 graduates from the programme begin work at Gauteng schools in May, with a second influx about to begin training. By September the project will be national.

Stresses on schools are acute. Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga recently revealed that 1,700 schools have no water and 15,000 are without libraries. Two-thirds of state schools have no computers, 90% have no science lab and more than half of all pupils either have no textbooks or share them.

Chairperson of the parliamentary Standing Committee on Appropriation, Mshiyeni Elliot Sogoni readily appreciated the possible impact of the scheme and backed it. He says, “The HRSS human resources graduate internship programme is an innovative approach to job creation. The placement of a dedicated HR resource at schools allows principals the time to focus on managing their school and delivering quality education to our children. The impact will be improved staff relations in schools resulting in an education system that all South Africans can be proud of.”

And Marius Meyer, CEO of the human resources professional and quality assurance body, the SA Board for People Practices (SABPP) adds: “Teachers, learners and schools are so important for the future of South Africa. A proper staffing resource and support model at schools can play a significant role in improving teachers’ morale and HR practices at schools. SABPP is supporting this programme to improve sound people management and school performance.”

Harrington said: “Most of us don’t realize all that a school principal has to deal with. He or she has to encourage sound education, ensure textbooks are delivered, supervise the grounds, and liaise with government, parents, children, unions and myriad issues. Often he or she is too overstretched to deal with staffing problems and so unhappiness boils over.”

A study by PepsiCo U.S.A. showed that graduates with a year of work experience were more likely to get jobs than those with no experience. Shelby Thompson, PepsiCo’s head of recruitment said: “With graduates struggling to find work after university, this research highlights the need for students to be thinking about gaining valuable industry experience.

“Students must work hard to develop the business skills needed to make them stand out from the crowd. A placement year is a great way to build this experience.”

The SA Democratic Teachers Union, which called for the go slow, also recently launched a campaign to promote quality public education. The Promotion of Quality Public Education Campaign calls on learners to cooperate with teachers in class and do their homework. Parents were urged to support students with their schoolwork. “Education cannot be the responsibility of the teacher alone, we need to get the whole nation involved,” said SADTU’s General Secretary Mugwena Maluleke.

Harrington said, “South African education has come under attack for low grades. We hope that by freeing up school principals from the hours that human resources management can take, they will guide teachers in their schools. And we hope that this in turn, will have a positive impact on educational outcomes in South Africa.”

Gauteng Business News