Hundreds of teachers from across the Eastern Cape were honoured at the second annual South African Democratic Teachers’ Union (SADTU) Teachers Awards held at the East London International Convention Centre (ICC) last Saturday.
The awards sought to recognise those teachers who showed commitment and dedication to their pupilsstudents, as well as those whose classes performed well in the latest matric exams.
The ceremony was attended by a large number of teachers, SADTU officials, and members of government including minister of basic education Matsie Angelina Motshekga.
SADTU Eastern Cape provincial chairperson Tabile Kunene congratulated teachers who he said often “laboured under trying conditions” in order to ensure their pupils received the best education possible.
“In all their minds, in whatever they did, they always made sure they acted ‘in loco parentis’ [in the place of a parent] without fail. We are paying homage to our brothers and sisters who understand that education is the foremost important service to society.”
Kunene emphasised that schools must do more than just focus on final matric results but should also work on producing good citizens.
“Just producing skilled labourers would be an adverse indictment against our education system and our revolutionary consciousness.
“We need an education system that produces individuals who are able to interpret and make sense of their political, ideological and socio-economic conditions so that they can become activists and react to those conditions and change them for the better,” he said.
Kunene also criticised SADTU members who continued to disrupt studies and bring the union into disrepute.
“Those who say SADTU is a disruptive union must think otherwise. As revolutionary educators, what comes first is education or all else will fail,” Kunene said.
However, this did not mean SADTU would stop fighting for the rights of its members.
“We can teach and fight at the same time,” said Kunene said.
The minister echoed Kunene’s sentiments in her speech.
“We [teachers] are workers of a special kind who have the responsibility of building a nation,” Motshekga she said.
One of the most difficult tasks for teachers in SA was combating the legacy of apartheid, which has left black children in a less fortunate position than their white counterparts, she said.
“It’s not about genes – it’s about the historical advantages you had,” she said.
Motshekga used two townships in Pretoria, Mamelodi and Atteridgeville to demonstrate her point.
“Consciously and deliberately, they [the apartheid government] didn’t build schools in Mamelodi because kids in Mamelodi had to go be workers,” she said.
“In Atteridgeville, they had schools because they had to be nurses and teachers.
“You go to those townships now and you can still see the difference of apartheid mapping. Atteridgeville continues to be ahead of Mamelodi in terms of civilisation and in terms of development.”
She said the Eastern Cape had some of the “richest human capital” in the country but was not building upon it effectively.
“All our efforts will be nil if the African child isn’t educated,” she cautioned.