Principals of public high schools in Grahamstown have appealed to parents to resist provincial moves to reduce teaching capacity and resources in their schools. The Grahamstown High School Principals’ Forum (GHSPF) issued a statement last week calling on Rhodes University, Makana Municipality and other stakeholders to show solidarity in protecting the educational capital of our area.
The call was sparked by Eastern Cape Education Department proposals to cut the number of teachers in provincial public schools. The department made the proposals as a cost-cutting measure to eliminate more than 3 000 teaching posts in the province. It is expected that 51 of these posts will come from the Grahamstown District and that a single high school could lose as many as nine posts.
The Forum, representing all public high school principals in Grahamstown, has voiced its objection to the way the department decides on which schools will lose posts. It says the Department’s proposals are based on “the application of formulae and therefore have the veneer of objectivity and impartiality” but adds that it is difficult for principals to understand and challenge these formulae.
When the principals analysed the latest version of the province’s post allocations for Grahamstown, it appeared these were based on a system of weightings. They feel that the system of weightings is discriminatory, as pupils in different schools, or grades, are accorded different values. In other words, a pupil in school A could be worth more than a pupil in school B.
The Forum statement describes this system as unacceptable, as “every Grahamstown learner is of equal value”.
It goes on to say that the weightings given to different subjects are “illogical and curious” because they give higher values to subjects such drama and music than to mathematics or accountancy. This suggests that the Eastern Cape’s priorities contradict the stated requirements of universities and industry.
The department says on its website that teacher allocations are based on pupil numbers, curriculum needs and budgetary constraints. It notes that the number of enrolments have shown a steady decline of 2.6% per year over the past five years. This means that there are 208 643 fewer pupils in Eastern Cape Schools than there were five years ago.
The Grahamstown High School Principals’ Forum adopted its founding constitution in July this year. Its stated aim is to strengthen the public schooling system in Grahamstown by jointly taking up key issues with the relevant authorities and stakeholders and offering fellow principals advice and support in dealing with matters of concern.
Eastern Cape education in a nutshell
* Eastern Cape teachers are getting old. According to the education department's website there are more than twice as many teachers over the age of 55 than under 30.
* Close to 80% of teaching staff is over 40 years of age.
* This year, 45% of the Eastern Cape Budget was allocated to the Education Department.
* The Education budget of R26.2 billion means that it spends more than R14 000 per pupil every year.