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Durban - Teachers’ unions have mixed reactions to a proposed bill which would see maths and science post-graduates teach the subjects at schools as part of their community service. This was to help address the dearth of maths and science teachers at schools in the country.

However, Science and Technology Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane said this week that while she would like the community service to be compulsory, it was not. Scelo Bhengu, president of Education Union of SA, did not welcome the idea.

He said the government was oppressing black people as it was aware that the education sector was dominated by black people and this was no different to outsourcing. Bhengu argued that the students would not be sufficiently equipped with skills to handle schoolchildren, and that being a teacher was also being a parent to them.

He said: “It hurts people who have studied for four years to get their (teaching) degrees.” It also limited the chances of people who studied for a Bachelor of Education degree who generally have limited employment opportunities outside of the education field. Bhengu said this was unlike maths and science students who had more options available.

He said that the education costs for many graduates were paid by grandparents or parents who were struggling to make ends meet. Bhengu said the government had no idea what was happening on the ground regarding the challenges facing the students.

Allen Thompson, deputy president of the National Teachers’ Union, said through government-sponsored Funza Lushaka bursaries, there were a number of people who graduated with maths and science as subjects. He said these graduates ended up working in grocery stores because of the lack of job opportunities.

The union was not against the idea, but graduates who studied towards their Bachelor of Education degrees needed to be prioritised, before maths and science students from fields outside education were taken in.

Nomusa Cembi, the SA Democratic Teachers’ Union media liaison officer, said they understood that the draft bill was for maths and science students to be additional teachers to those who would be employed by schools.

She called for more discussions between all stakeholders which included the Department of Science and Technology and the SA Council of Educators. Kubayi-Ngubane said unions did not understand the draft paper.

She said this proposal was for maths and science graduates who were completing their Master’s and doctoral studies, and community service would not be compulsory. “It would actually be outreach programmes and would not interfere with the work of the Department of Basic Education,” Kubayi-Ngubane said.

She said: “South Africans need to give back to communities. Communities are what made us who we are.” Kubayi-Ngubane said people were focusing on one line in a paper that dealt with the bigger issue of making science and technology the economic driver of the country.

She said the current paper had been presented to cabinet ministers for comment.

Daily News