A GROSS VIOLATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS
Amidst the flurry of well wishes and statements of victory in reminiscing over past injustices inflicted during the Apartheid era, the glaring plight of South Africa’s children remains overlooked and ignored.
We the teachers of NAPTOSA bear witness to our human rights and that of the learners under our care being violated daily.
Our hope for conducive and safe working environments are continually dashed by the under-performance and constant delays in service delivery by the officials of education departments. We have tried to keep hope alive and engage with the departments but our cries have been ignored. We are ignored whilst the situation continues to deteriorate.
‘This is a gross violation of our rights and those of the most vulnerable, the children’, said Mr Ntantala. Teachers and learners are weary of laboring under deplorable infrastructure and safety conditions. ‘When will government start treating learners and teachers with the dignity they deserve?’ he asked.
Violence in our schools is rampant. Hardly a day goes by without reports of teacher on learner, learner on learner or learner on teacher violence. Whilst education departments (Gauteng in particular) are often quick to react where teachers are alleged to be the perpetrators, the same cannot be said where teachers are the victims. ‘Gangsterism in the Western Cape has become another major safety factor in our schools, but despite all these threats, school safety still does not appear to be a priority to education departments’, said Mr Ntantala.
In most provinces, the conditions that teaching and learning are subjected to, are deplorable.
Despite high court rulings and a promise by the national department to have schooling infrastructure targets met by November 2016 we still see lack of water and proper sanitation in some schools, poorly ventilated prefab containers for classrooms, broken chairs and desks and the threat to the health of learners and teachers due to hazardous asbestos facilities, especially in the Eastern Cape.
Instead, monies earmarked for infrastructure development are being returned to National Treasury year in and year out. Does anyone really care about the safety and wellbeing of teachers and learners? How many lives must be lost before someone takes notice that departments have failed to fulfill their mandates on the provision of school infrastructure? Officials continue to underperform and to date no one has been called to account.
‘NAPTOSA calls on government to charge and remove all underperforming officials entrusted with ensuring the provision of proper and safe learning environments in schools’, said Mr Ntantala.
The non-, or slow, filling of posts also contributes to human rights violations in education. Limpopo, Kwa Zulu Natal, Free State and the Eastern Cape especially suffer in this regard. The Eastern Cape Education Department has up to now only filled 489 of the 1589 post advertised in November 2017. ‘Classrooms are overcrowded! It’s almost impossible to teach under these conditions’, said Mr Ntantala. ‘We call on circuit managers and Provincial HODs to realize how their failure to timeously appoint teachers perpetuates dysfunctionality in many schools’, he added.
NAPTOSA is aware of the gross human rights violations in Special schools such as Rosenhof Special School in the Free State. ‘The failure by government to ensure sufficient numbers of nurses, house mothers and carers in these facilities is a disaster waiting to happen’ said Mr Ntantala. ‘Do we have to wait for a similar “Esidemeni “situation in education before anything is done?’, he added.
It is most frustrating to see human rights violations in education being perpetrated by teachers, hiding behind the façade of unions, against other teachers.
This is especially prevalent in Gauteng where pseudo claims of racism, trumped-up allegations, harassment and victimization are being used to remove principals and members of SMTs from their positions for the personal gain and agendas of others. In the process well-functioning schools are destabilized to the detriment of the right of children to quality education.
In the Eastern Cape mass meetings and memorial services are held by certain unions during school teaching time. Not only are learners robbed of teaching time, but their safety is compromised when they are sent home without parents being adequately notified.
‘NAPTOSA members will no longer cover this unprofessional behaviour by members of other unions’, said Mr Ntantala.
The lack of timeous delivery of LTSM in many provinces, is tantamount to academic abuse – a gross human rights violation of children’s rights to quality education. In KwaZulu-Natal, we see publishers quick to tender for the publication of books, but once the tender is secured, the urgency dissipates so that some learners have been without books for the whole term.
Work overload is another common violation of the rights of teachers and learners. Administrative duties, excessive assessments and the attendance of workshops keep teachers so busy that proper teaching inevitably suffers. ‘Government has promised assistant teachers but to date this has not been implemented’, said Mr Ntantala.
SA SAMS is yet another unlegislated departmental initiative that is being forced on public schools. Its requirements put much emphases on excessive assessment that is not in line with CAPS. ‘The departmental officials ignore the council of experienced educators’, he added.
If it is not enough that our teachers have to often work in unsafe and unsatisfactory conditions, we find provinces such as Free State and Northern Cape unilaterally changing terms and conditions of employment of teachers. ‘Be assured that NAPTOSA will challenge all such actions’, said Mr Ntantala.
NAPTOSA is aware that parents of learners who depend of the scholar transport system are waiting anxiously for the department to put a coherent transport system in place. It is no secret that the current conditions of the buses used for scholar transport leave much to be desired.
The absence of such a coherent system across all provinces has already led to the deaths of learners who are forced to utilize any means of transport available, such as the back of “bakkies”, or to walk along dangerous roads, to reach school.
Learning time is also compromised for learners who have to travel vast distances by foot, often coming late and then being overtaken by tiredness during the school day.
‘Is it because they are children that they do not matter as much as adults? Are their Constitutional rights not as important as others? It is shocking that the South African government focuses so much on accumulation for self while discounting the very little human soul who wants to give so much to this country. Why are our children’s rights neglected and pushed aside in favour of ‘more important’ things? What could be more important to this country’s future than the wellbeing of our children?’ asked Mr Ntantala.
‘We pride ourselves in South Africa on our human rights culture. How can we then stand by and watch those very rights being regularly trampled in our schools?’ concluded Mr Ntantala.