Written by Dumi Mbona

In response to the opinion piece/proposal to save (see the article) the school year written by Mr. Thembalihle Skonje an educator in Ngqayizivele Secondary School; educators revealed another issue faced by the teaching profession – PROFESSIONALISM.

In what was supposed to be a meaningful engagement among “professionals” in facebook group “Educators Crew” to find feasible solutions…..the responses left a lot to be desired:

With the proposed reopening of schools during the pandemic, will the educators be professional enough to keep to the outlined safety guidelines? And if not what should be the consequences?

And so let us zoom in to the teaching profession:

South Africa’s public education system has 410,000 teachers employed in 25,000 schools across the country. They are responsible for 12.9 million pupils while approximately 117,300 qualified teachers are unemployed.

South Africa does not graduate enough teachers to meet the supply and demand. Teachers are often overwhelmed (read 702 article on overwhelmed teachers) by the number of learners in a classroom. The teaching fraternity is expected to deliver quality education and produce upstanding members of society. Parents entrust them with their children. A teacher plays multiples roles: teaching – parenting – nursing – psychologist – leading – policing and now they have to be Covid – 19 front-liners. If you have time, focus on each of these roles and you will find that each role has its tasks and demands.

The importance of this profession cannot be denied or taken lightly.

Now let us look at what it took for these 527,300 men and women to become professional teachers:

Personal Attributes: passion – commitment – tolerance – perseverance – character – dedication to make a difference in the lives of young and older children. Academically: a four year Bachelor of Education degree (B.Ed) or three/four year Bachelor’s degree, followed by a one year Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE). Once completed both routes, you are classified as a professionally qualified teacher. The next requirement is that you register with the South African Council for Educators (SACE).

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The teacher training programmes offered by tertiary institutions are of high quality which should produce likewise, high quality teachers. The outcome of the training programme for a B.Ed graduate:

  • Develop and consolidate in an integrated way appropriate disciplinary, practical, pedagogical and situational knowledge.
  • Cultivate a practical understanding of teaching and learning.
  • Foster self-reflexivity and understanding among prospective teachers.
  • Nurture commitment to the ideals of the teaching profession.
  • Develop the professional dispositions and self-identity of students as teachers.
  • Develop students as active citizens.
  • Promote and develop competences to organize learning among diverse range of learners in diverse context.

We cannot question the quality of the Training Programme; you can forgive the Minister of Basic Education for her confidence in teachers’ ability to handle the situation. However it does not often translate into the same script on the ground. Now let us pay our attention to the South African Council for Educators (SACE).

SACE’s purpose is to:

  • Inspire credible teaching profession.
  • Enhance and safeguard public confidence in the teaching profession, by registering fit to teach educators and lecturers.

It is illegal to teach without SACE number. You can be a member of SACE even without acquiring a teaching qualification. To be a member you will have to pay an annual member’s fee of R200 SA citizen and R400 for non-citizens.

While it is clear that there is a lot that goes into producing a professional teacher, but there is still a room for improvement.

Teaching Profession

Here are the few suggestions:

  • The teaching profession is almost similar to the nursing profession. Nurses, Police, Prison Warders, Sport teams wear uniforms. Maybe educators should also wear their professional uniforms not necessary the same as students. It can be one national colour or different colours per school. Teachers are professionals and should be treated as such; but also they should behave like professionals. Uniforms are intended to promote the school brand, unity and order or to make one’s role easily identifiable in other contexts. Universities and Colleges could apply the same with the lecturers. Teachers are professional practitioners; their image in society should be well defined and respected. If educators can proudly wear their unions’ uniforms then surely teaching uniforms won’t be a problem.
  • Along with SACE number and certificate, teaching licenses should be issued in a smartcard format. The smartcard will serve as another form of Identity, similar to the car license. The teaching license must give teachers special and exclusive liberties to some public places/offices.
  • And yes teachers should not have to be concerned about their salary structure. If we want this profession to have the respect it deserves then salaries should be from 20K (minimum). Teachers should be millionaires! A pilot must not earn more than a teacher. And if we can have the budget to get the schools ready and safe to open in just 3 weeks, surely we can have the budget to appreciate educators; in that way demand the appropriate professionalism.   
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The above suggestions will help in dignifying the teaching profession and may be giving it the recognition it deserves.

How professional is the teaching profession? Well you decide, but from the look of things, not professional enough!