Unemployed People’s Movement: Statement on the Education Crisis

18 August 2015


Unemployed People’s Movement: Statement on the Education Crisis


Recently parents in Port Elizabeth have taken to the streets to protest against the atrocious education being experienced by their children. They are not alone. The whole South African education system is terminally sick. This is demonstrated by the lack of teachers in our schools, the lack of science equipment, learners who are learning under the trees, the dropping of the pass rate from 40% to 33% and the fact that both the culture of learning and teaching has gone to the dogs.

Nathaniel Nyaluza, a high school in Grahamstown is a symptom of the deep national crisis in public education. We did interviews with learners, teachers and parents at this school as well as the District Director of Education. The purpose of the interviews was to look at the crisis resulting from the shortage of teachers but we uncovered many other things as cited below

Nathaniel Nyaluza used to be one of the well run schools in the township with excellence in both Maths and Science. Siyabulela Nomoyi matriculated in Nathaniel Nyaluza with distinction in both Maths and Science. He enrolled at Rhodes University and pursued his Honours in Mathematical Statistics & Pure Mathematics. He received a prestigious scholarship, the Nelson Mandela Scholarship, due to his academic success. Siyabulela Nomoyi continues to fly limitlessly with his academic success. Another learner is Vuyile Sixaba who is now doing his MA in Mathematics, having matriculated at the same Nathaniel Nyaluza as well. There are many students who matriculated at Nyaluza with distinction and are doing well in different universities

Nyaluza is now far from the former of its days of glory. The problem started when its former principal, Mr. Mushwana, was sacked by certain teachers on the accusations of financial mismanagement.  The District Department of Education sent a team to investigate the accusation and Mr Mushwana was found clean.

The South African Teachers Democratic Union (SADTU) was also pushing for its members to be promoted to positions of Head of Department (HOD’s). Mr Mushwana to this day he insists that he refused to recommend teachers to HOD posts who were without competency and expertise on the curriculum. He is aware that this soured the relationship between the union and the principal as well. The sacking was inevitable considering that patronage is embedded in our society. News 24 reported on the 27 April 2014 “If you’ve got R30000 or more to donate, the teachers’ union has the job you’re looking for…. A promotions-for-cash racket run by members of teachers’ union SADTU has led to scores of illegal appointments across the country – and even a murder. City Press also revealed that plum posts, including those of principal and deputy principal, are routinely sold for upwards of R30000.”

Mr Mushwana insists that if he was to go back to Nyaluza, he wouldn’t be a pawn of any union or succumb to pressure, he would still not promote teachers who do not meet the requirements, who lack the skills and the expertise. He would set up disciplinary processes for teachers who stay away from school or who do not prepare for lessons.

There has been an exodus of teachers resigning to due to unhappiness about the way the schools is being run by what they refer to as a ‘three man show.’ This year alone, by mid-June there are about 4 teachers who have submitted their resignation with the Department of Education. This is adding to the shortage of teachers. There is no Mathematics and Science teacher for all grades. The Department of Education is struggling to fill in the posts due to a “lack of budget”. One teacher jokes that what lack of budget can there be when a president can build a mansion of R248 million mansion in Nkandla and his deputy can bid for a buffalo to the tune of R18 million? The school is struggling to retain teachers, in particular those who are very hostile to the union.  One teacher remarked that the department is clearly bullied by the union. She despise the union and says that it has no concern for the interests of the learners.

The parents take their tune from the teachers, they trust the judgment and input of their teachers. One parent even said, if we give them our kids to teach them, that alone is a demonstration of trust. It’s like politicians, when we give them our vote and betray us. Asked if there is anything that could be done, she agreed but was quick to point out, she doesn’t know what it is.

The students are quite adamant, they won’t fail as the lack of teachers is not of their own making, and it’s the department’s fault. Asked what they would do if they fail, they insist on toyi-toyi for promotion to the other grade. They bask in the sun when there is no teacher for the period, or go home and come back next day, missing the rest of classes.

The Management School Committee insist that the teachers who are not happy are bunking the classes and also some of them are implicated in corruption at the school. Mr. Diko denies the allegations that the schools is run by three teachers.

One hundred and ten students at the school wrote mid–year exams and only 10 students passed. This is the extent of the crisis. The narrow definition of unemployment is said to be 27% and young people count for 67% of that. Unemployment rate is soaring high and one of the reason is the lack of skills among young people. Unemployment means young people stripped naked of their dignity.

The crisis at Nyaluza is a symptom of a deep seated problem in township schools. Both the culture of learning and teaching has gone to dogs. What happened to the promise of the Freedom Charter, that the doors of learning and teaching shall be open, or did this mean physical access?

Education has been captured by a predatory elite, often operating through SADTU. Nutrition program, textbooks, maintenance, and jobs are all part of a patronage machine that is concerned about enriching people in SADTU and the ruling the party. The doors or learning and culture have not been opened.


Unanthi Klass: 073 279 8397

Ayanda Kota: 078 625 6462