Thousands of learners from township high schools and members of the local South African Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu) marched to the district office of the Eastern Cape Department of Education on Friday to protest about the shortage of teachers in their schools.
Thousands of learners from township high schools and members of the local South African Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu) marched to the district office of the Eastern Cape Department of Education on Friday to protest about the shortage of teachers in their schools. The marchers wanted to hand over a petition to district director, Amos Fetsha.
The march started at Raglan Road where learners gathered near Ming Chan Henry General Dealer and proceeded along Beaufort and High Streets, bringing traffic to a standstill. They waved placards that read, “Future is in the dustbin without teachers”; “We are the leaders of tomorrow, how can we lead without education”; and “We demand back our teachers: the coterie killing our education in Grahamstown must go.”
But on their arrival, it was reported that Fetsha was in East London. The marchers were defiant, threatening to wait for Fetsha even if he arrived at midnight.
The action followed a four-week go slow by Sadtu members in the Eastern Cape, which had seen pupils being taught for only two hours a day. The go-slow began after teachers returned to school at the start of the academic year to find their temporary colleagues had been removed. They demanded the immediate dismissal of Eastern Cape education chief, Advocate Modidima Mannya.
One of Friday's march leaders, deputy president of the Learners Representative Council (LRC) at Nathaniel Nyaluza Secondary School, Nqaba Ngxesho, said all they wanted was to get their teachers back.
“We lost two teachers who were teaching Life Sciences and Geography in Grade 12. We don't have enough textbooks, Grade 12 learners are behind in the syllabus, and chances are we will fail,” Ngxesho said. He said his school had only 15 teachers, to serve 500 pupils.
“How are they going to cope with the workload?” he asked. He said the teachers' go-slow had also affected them badly. “We attend two classes a day, and we have to go back home again,” he said.
Meanwhile, Saraffina Grootboom, secretary of the LRC at Mary Waters High School, said her school had been short of 11 teachers since 2010.
“Grade 12 learners do not have an English home-language teacher,” said Grootboom. She accused Fetsha of not doing anything for the schools. “He has been here for more than three years. He must go,” she said.
Treasurer of the LRC at Nombulelo High School, Anelisa Ncul, said Grade 12 learners at her school did not have Economics or History teachers.
“We want our teachers back, and they must be paid like other teachers,” she explained.
Sinazo Namba, president of the LRC at Khutliso Daniels Secondary School, asked the ANC was in the education crisis.
“Where is democracy? We have knowledge that Eastern Cape education chief Modidima Mannya sent text messages to all Sadtu executive members informing them that his child is attending a Model C school, and he (Mannya) does not want to be troubled,” said Namba.
Even though the crowd was informed that Fetsha was not around, they continued singing anti-Fetsha songs. After a while the teachers decided to give Fetsha another call. This time, they claimed he had said he was in Queenstown, his home town.
Addressing the frustrated crowd, Nathaniel Nyaluza teacher, George Lamani, who appeared to be the leader of the march, said: We have been here for more than three hours. The man we want lives in Queenstown and is not in Grahamstown now. If you can reason that, he doesn't care, said Lamani.
The teacher said they had realised now that Fetsha didn't not care about them, but vowed they would return to the district office to demand a meeting with him.
The pupils dispersed around 1pm, leaving parents and teachers still locked in discussion in the department's parking lot.