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Media Release

4 February, 2007

Conversation on teachers and teaching conditions

The following are questions put to the Western Cape Education Department (WCED) by the Workers' World news agency, for broadcast on community radio stations.

  1. There is an outcry that teachers are not paid well. Is this outcry justifiable? If so, what are the reasons for them being underpaid?

    This is a difficult question to answer. The answer depends on your point of view. We are sensitive to the issue. Teachers are our most important resource.

    We pay teachers as much as we can afford, according to national salary scales and the budget that is available to us.

    We have given teachers cost-of-living increases every year for the past 10 years, and we recently introduced accelerated pay progression, to recognise good performance.

    One way of approaching this issue is to look at what teachers are now being paid and allow listeners to make up their own minds.

    Teachers entering the profession with matric plus a three-year qualification will start with an annual salary of R79 914 plus 30% benefits, which include pension, medical aid and a housing allowance. This package is worth R103 888, or R8 657 a month.

    Teachers entering the profession with matric plus a four-year qualification will start with a salary of R99 540 plus 30% benefits. This package is worth a total of R129 402, or R10 783 a month.

    About 65% of teachers in the Western Cape have matric plus a four-year qualification or higher. Teachers are generally well qualified in the Western Cape.

    Teachers with matric plus a three-year qualification can expect to earn a package worth R109 184 after five years. Those with matric plus a four-year qualification can expect an annual package worth R136 008 after five years, or R11 334 a month.

    School principals can earn up to R400 000 a year, depending on their qualifications and the size of the school they have to manage.

  2. Some teachers have opted to work outside the country. Doesn't that impact on our education in South Africa?

    It depends on how many teachers are leaving and the kind of qualifications they have. It is obviously a great pity if lose teachers permanently if they have scarce skills, such as maths and science teaching.

    While we are aware of teachers who leave the country, we are also aware of teachers who are coming back. They bring fresh insights with them, that help to build the profession in South Africa.

    If overseas experience helps the teacher to grow as a person and as a teacher, we welcome it.

  3. What is the government doing to deal with the brain drain?

    It obviously concerns us if teachers leave the profession. We obviously want to keep good teachers, and keep them in the classroom.

    We should also look at this issue in context, for example, by looking at the actual number of teachers resigning from the profession in the Western Cape.

    For example, a total of 933 teachers resigned during the 2006/07 financial year. This represents 3.3% of the 28 300 teachers we currently employ.

    We believe this figure compares favourably with the staff turnover in any large organization.

    Some of these teachers may have gone overseas. Others entered the economy in other ways. Teachers develop important skills while teaching and have a lot to offer our economy and society in general.

    Nevertheless, teachers are our most important resource and we are committed to doing whatever we can to develop and retain this resource, by ensuring professional development, career and salary progression, and general support.

    Teachers are generally well qualified in the Western Cape, which is a blessing. Nevertheless, we are committed to lifelong learning and we support teachers in their ongoing efforts to improve their teaching knowledge and skills.

    This includes the work of our Cape Teaching Institute, which we started about five years ago to provide indepth, inservice training.

    We have also provided extensive training on the new national curriculum in recent years. Teachers have shown great professionalism and commitment in their approach to the new curriculum.

    We have Education Management and Development Centres, or EMDCs, in every district to provide ongoing support to teachers and schools, along with support by specialists at our head office in Cape Town.

    We have introduced an Integrated Quality Management System, or IQMS, to evaluate teacher performance and to identify the training and development needs of every teacher in the province.

    We introduced the IQMS in 2005. While it is still early days, we believe that the system will contribute significantly to professional development in future years.

    In addition to professional development, we are using IQMS to accelerate pay progression for teachers who perform well, in addition to cost-of-living increases.

    We have also introduced alternative career path options for teachers, to encourage our best teachers to stay in the classroom.

    In the past, promotion usually meant leaving the classroom for management positions in the department.

    We want good teachers to stay in the classroom if at all possible, and for this reason we have introduce new career path options, for example, that allow teachers to become Senior and Master teachers.

    Senior and Master teachers can now earn the same salaries as heads of departments and deputy principals.

    Other forms of training and support include our award-winning Khanya programme, which uses ICT to support teaching and learning.

    Khanya has trained about 15 000 teachers so far on how to use technology to enhance teaching and learning.

    The WCED has introduced an Employee Wellness Programme to provide 24-hour counseling support for any kind of personal problem, via a toll-free telephone number, and face-to-face counseling where necessary.

    WCED Client Services, meanwhile, answers queries dealing with salaries and employee benefits. The service won Premier's Awards for Service Excellence in 2005 and 2006.

    Our web site also provides an important point of contact. About 30 000 people visit the site every month. Most of these are teachers and principals, judging from the pages they visit most often.

    These are all examples of what we are doing to support teachers at the moment.

  4. In 2006, there have been a number of incidents of violence in schools. Are there any plans in place to address and ensure the safety of not only learners but teachers as well?

    Yes, we do have plans in place. Our Safe Schools Division has developed our approach to school safety and works closely with schools and other partners to ensure safe learning and teaching environments.

    We originally started Safe Schools in 1999 to address the impact of gangsterism on our schools in the Western Cape.

    The programme has grown significantly over the years and now has three key objectives. These are:

    • To secure the physical environment of our schools, by installing various security systems;
    • To influence the social environment, by modifying learner behaviour and by mobilizing community support for schools; and thirdly
    • By developing policies and procedures to ensure systemic changes in our general approach to school safety and security.

    The safety situation differs from school to school. We therefore require every school to have a safety plan that addresses the issue of safety in their particular situation.

    Safe Schools worked closely with teacher unions and other partners to develop guidelines for school safety plans to protect both teachers and learners. They published the guidelines in a manual on school safety in 2004.

    Other services of the division include our Safe Schools Call Centre that provides a point of contact for learners experiencing any form of abuse and for reporting incidents of crime, violence and vandalism.

    Meanwhile, Safe Schools works closely with other partners, for example, the provincial Department of Community Safety, who have organized Bambanane volunteers to help protect schools.

  5. There have been a number of plans to improve the quality of education in South Africa. Will these plans work if teachers are still working under difficult conditions?

    In answer to the first part of your question - yes, we have worked extensively over the past 13 years to provide quality education for all, on both the national and provincial levels.

    Before 1994, we had 19 different education departments, with different curricula, different approaches to education, and different standards for measuring achievement.

    We now have a single education system, managed by a national Department of Education Department and nine provincial departments.

    For the first time, we have a same national curriculum with clear benchmarks for measuring the progress of learners in every grade and learning area. We are in the process of building a world-class education system.

    These are major achievements. We are now in the process of implementing these changes. The task is enormous.

    Implementing change of this scale is a massive undertaking, and is extremely hard work for all concerned. The heroes in this process have been our teachers.

    They had to continue teaching cohorts of learners while still grappling with changes in curriculum and the way we have to implement it.

    Change is never easy, especially on this scale. The good news is that the system is now in place and the system as a whole has started to stabilize as it beds down.

    Meanwhile, we are addressing specific issues in the Western Cape as we implement our Human Capital Development Strategy for the province.

    The strategy will bring support much closer to schools than ever before, via our circuits and districts.

    In the long run, all of these changes will be well worth it, because they offer a much greater chance of improving access to quality education for all.

  6. In most cases, especially in (former) Department of Education and Training schools, are burdened with administrative work when schools open, resulting in them starting teaching later than expected. How do you see the department addressing this?

    As a general rule, we expect schools to prepare for the start of the year during the year before, so that they can start teaching on the first day of term in the new year.

    This preparation should include administration associated with learner enrolment, finalizing timetables and ensuring that learning and teaching support materials are place.

    We have provided guidelines to schools on what to do at different times of the year to ensure that they keep up to date with administration and other tasks.

    Staff have to report for duty a few days before learners arrive, so that they can complete outstanding administration in time for the arrival of the learners. We will continue to monitor the situation, to ensure that administration is completed in good time.

    Meanwhile, we have just launched an exciting new programme to develop the skills of school managers. The programme will contribute significantly towards ensuring that our schools are well managed.

  7. There seems to be a relatively high amount of money invested in education, yet not much change and improvement. Why?

    The education budget in 2007/08 in the Western Cape is R7.7-billion. This is definitely a huge amount of money.

    We would not agree with you that we have not seen much change and improvement.

    We have basically built an entirely new education system.

    We have new programmes in place that are addressing every aspect of education, from early childhood development, to improving the literacy and numeracy rate in primary schools, and to address the drop out rate in high schools.

    We have redesigned our Further Education and Training Colleges to meet the specific needs of the Western Cape economy.

    The number of learners passing matric has increased steadily in the Western Cape in recent years. We consistently achieved the highest matric pass rate in the country.

    We have cut the number of schools achieving matric pass rates of less than 60% from about 82 schools in 2000 to 34 in 2006.

    Our biggest problem is the high drop-out rate in high schools. About 50% of learners leave school before Grade 12.

    Our new electronic learner tracking systems will help us to monitor learner progress in high schools and FET colleges, and to design appropriate interventions where necessary.

    There are no quick fixes to this problem. We have to start at the beginning, by ensuring that learners can read, write and calculate at appropriate levels for their ages.

    We have introduced a major new Literacy and Numeracy Strategy to address this issue.

  8. The social status of teachers has declined significantly compared to 30 years ago. Why? Are they earning less in real terms?

    This issue has a long history. On World Teacher's Day last year, we celebrated the 40th anniversary of the UNESCO Recommendation Concerning the Status of Teachers.

    We are still talking about this perception after 40 years, and no doubt many years before that. To a large extent, the social status of teachers has become a self-perpetuating issue.

    As far as we are concerned, teachers are our heroes. They are producing millions of young people capable of facing the future with confidence.

    Every year, they produce cohorts of young people with the knowledge, skills, values and attitudes they need to make a success of life. Teachers are contributing to social change and transformation like no other profession.

    We need to simply declare that the social status of teaching has changed, and move forward. Many courageous, confident, talented people are already doing so in the teaching profession and we salute them for this.

    The trouble is, too many of us, including teachers and the media, continue to repeat this slogan, which undermines the profession for no great benefit. We need to break this habit, and work together to highlight the contribution that teachers are making to social development.

    We have introduced various measures on a national level to build and promote the teaching profession, and to provide platforms for the profession's participation in policy making.

    These include the South African Council of Educators and the Education Labour Relations Council. The profession has contributed to developing policies on Norms and Standards for Educators, the national curriculum, and integrated quality management.

    The National Teaching Awards also acknowledge the huge contribution that teachers are making towards improving the quality of education across the country.

    We need to do further research on whether teachers are earning less in real terms than they did 30 years ago, namely, in 1977.

    What we do know is that in 1977, a white, female teacher joining the old Cape Education Department with matric plus a five-year qualification could expect to earn R160 month. If she got married, she would lose her job and future pension.

    We have moved on since then.

Issued by:
Paddy Attwell
Director: Communication
Western Cape Education Department
Tel: 021 467 2531
Fax: 021 461 3694
Email: pattwell@pgwc.gov.za

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2007 WCED