There is a dire need for our country to contain the loss of teaching power to other more lucrative domains.
If we are talking only remuneration, then all our teachers deserve increased recognition for the sterling service they provide, often under soul-destroying conditions.
My column is driven by my direct involvement with my youngest grandson, Zachary, who is now in matric. I am conflicted, because I do not want him to see the ordeal of the matric examination as a gauntlet to be run.
I want all matrics to understand that they have arrived at a place where their academic exposures and support change radically.
One finds it hard to swallow the reality of schools that perform brilliantly, meaning a 100% pass-rate that becomes an annual Mardi Gras of celebration.
How many of our schools are not in contention for recognition because they do not meet one of the several criteria for classification, to wit, a matric cohort of 80 and more?
And how many of our best teachers are overlooked because of other spurious classification requirements for recognition.
It is an incontestable fact that school fees for matrics in the Western Cape, at schools like Bishops or Herschel, range from more than R200 000 a year to the modest R50 000 of Wynberg or Westerford.
One is tempted towards a flawed correlation between fees and function. There is a spurious justification to expect bang for your buck, but that is not an open and shut case.
One cannot attach a monetary value to teacher-input and professional pride.
The other side is, of course, schools that function as well (and better) and yet do not feature in the annual parade of exclusive domains.
I would refer to a recent award ceremony where a school was placed 20th out of 20. And the fees are under R5 000 per annum. What does one do with a situation like this.
Will more money increase performance? Or less money decrease it?
And what role does the health of the fiscus play in the actual hands-on instruction which is provided with little recognition of the personal dedication of the educator.
One can understand that I am deeply conflicted by the way in which merit is rewarded, or sadly, overlooked.
I shall stick out my neck and say: “Well done, Mr Fairburn at Spine Road in Mitchells Plain. Your success is clearly not predicated on the size of the school fee.”
The merit lies elsewhere, in Vygotsky’s zones of Proximal development, where every didactic strategy, from the three learning modalities to peerdriven support and recognition of effort function regardless of school fees is applied.
And the cognitive success is its own merit, not a dubious parade with ministers whom I strongly suspect didn’t spend a lot of time at the coalface of the classroom or the school campus where chaos reigns. Kudos to Spine Road for debunking the myth of “putting your money where your mouth is”. Spine Road is about dignity, perseverance, self-awareness, and a willingness to make the effort which has its own rewards in-built.
The principal, Mr Fairburn, who inherited and accepted the baton passed to him by the redoubtable Riyhaad Najaar, has thrown down a challenge that cannot be ignored.
The matrics in the “unfêted” schools must know that they are worthy, that the effort is the reward. They do not need sanctimonious strategies for Plan B when they do not pass the first time. A matric has weathered 12 years of instruction from honourable and often sadly unrecognised Trojan educators.
You cannot be tested on what you have not been taught. Engage with each other. Your success starts now, right here at the beginning, not at the end of the year when you are held in thrall until inept educational authorities “release” the results to the school and you to the adult world.
Here is a case where every person possible should climb in and encourage these young warriors.
There are no prescriptions or criteria. The object is to stimulate, encourage, motivate, praise, recognise and do whatever else is necessary to convince the entire matriculant cohort that they can pass starting from today.
* Alex Tabisher.
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.
Do you have something on your mind; or want to comment on the big stories of the day? We would love to hear from you. Please send your letters to [email protected].
All letters to be considered for publication, must contain full names, addresses and contact details (not for publication)