Taking ownership of our schools

Tom Stokes, MPP

DA KZN Spokesperson on Education

The Democratic Alliance in KwaZulu-Natal welcomes provincial Education MEC, Senzo Mchunu’s announcement that principals who run institutions of excellence will be used to train head teachers of under-performing schools.

The move is a significant development within schools administration in the province. Another is the opening of the old Dokkies College as a training centre for both new and experienced educators

KwaZulu-Natal has a major under supply of qualified and resourceful teachers and school managers, and the old method of using department officials to run training workshops has been a waste of time. Many of these officials were themselves under-qualified or had little or no experience in running successful schools and were clearly uninspiring as these in-service courses hardly had any effect on the attendants.

Using principals with a track record of success and a practical approach to the job of running a successful school should bring about a rapid transfer of quick-fix solutions for principals currently failing to give direction to their staff. But leadership is as much about personality as it is about skill. These principals must also have the necessary resolve and vision to step up to the task of turning around their schools. If not they must be replaced.

Parallel to this is the decision to declare teaching an essential service. The DA has long called for this change – not because we oppose the notion of trade unions – but because the current balance between the rights of teachers and the rights of learners/parents is skewed. The announcement shows a new determination by both national and provincial education authorities to take control. For too long, there have been good ideas but no resolve due to the unpopularity of certain decisions. It appears that officials are finally prepared to do what is right and the department must be in a position to act without always being answerable to SADTU.

The uproar from teacher unions over this decision is expected. But they must see that the current situation in schools is untenable. There is far too much power resting with union representatives and far too little with principals and the department.

In comparison with other countries our schools are the most politicised by far. It is time that we returned them to places of learning and that ownership of our schools was once again in the hand of educators, learners and parents.

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