Pic: Nomusa Cembi(SADTU)By Nomusa Cembi
The recently released IMF report which paints a bleak picture of South Africa’s education system as it states, among others, that on average, teachers in South Africa misses 11% of teaching time due to absenteeism and roughly 20% are absent Mondays and Fridays, is news to most teachers, more especially from township and rural areas who teach on Saturdays and sacrifice their holidays. SADTU’s media team visited the school to get first-hand information on what happens in school.
According to the 2019 school calender learners should be enjoying their end-of first quarter vacation, However, for Winnie Mandela Secondary School’ eight Grade 12 teachers as well as the class made of 238 learners,
Saturdays and school holidays do not provide them with these well-deserved breaks but are more or less normal school days. Clad in their full school uniforms, they are sitting in classrooms behind the school’s locked gates, being taught. The only difference is that, instead of a normal seven hour day, they endure during normal school days, they are spending five hours in class on Saturdays and school holidays.
According to the School’s Deputy Principal, Mam Mabusela the teachers as well as the learners are sacrificing their precious time because they want to improve their results. “We are striving to get 100%. For us to achieve that, we even teach during holidays and Saturdays,” she says.
The school is in an informal area where it is for some learners, difficult even to have a place to study at home. “Some do not have electricity at home, so we need to help them, “Mam Mabusela explains.
Besides this, classes during holidays provide the teachers with the opportunity to provide the learners with individual attention as some are progressed learners. 83 of the 238 matrics are progresses learner but they are not progressed in all subjects.
To the teachers, working beyond the normal working hours will not make a difference in their take home but it is well worth the sacrifice.
“You need passion to be a teacher. It is not about money. I am sacrificing my time to come here because I love it; I love teaching,“ Mabusela says.
English teacher, Steven Masemola knows there is no holiday for Grade 12 and has no qualms with that.
For him, this is about the future of his learners. “One thing that is important about teaching is that it you are not here for yourself but you are here for these kids,” he says.
Being at school, Masemola is not only helping his learners to advance academically but the school is also providing learners with a safe haven.
“You saw when you came here, the roads are closed, so those are the challenges in the area,” he explains.
The school has the support of the community and parents who allow their children to attend during the holidays. Community members also work hard as learners are in class, preparing meals for them and it is always a great relief during lunch as they all make their way to receive their meals, cooked by community members.
The school not only caters for Winnie Mandela learners only, learners as far away as Limpopo whose parents work in Gauteng, attend these classes during these holidays when they come to visit their parents.
For the school management and teachers , this is not a big deal as they want to see every learner making in in life.
Masemola has been teaching 20 years and his greatest satisfaction is to see his learners succeed in life.
“When I meet some of my former kids, sometimes I can’t recognise them, they are the ones who greet me, they are far ahead of me in terms of progress in life,” he says
Masego Tsokolo is happy to be at school even if it is during school holidays. The holidays are worth the sacrifice as she aims to pass matric with seven distinctions and study Fashion Design.