News / South Africa / Education
There has not been enough support for teachers battling through the challenges of the Covid pandemic while trying to teach the future generation.
South African Democratic Teachers’ Union general secretary Mugwena Maluleke says the pandemic has aggravated their workload because during rotational timetabling it meant planning to repeat a lesson twice or thrice just to ensure pupils benefited.
“The demand that is created by the pandemic pushed teaching beyond content and pedagogy,” Maluleke said.
He said it demanded that teachers address the mental health of pupils and themselves.
“The teachers have to promote social and emotional wellbeing, and a relaxed classroom,” Maluleke said.
“Time loss tempted teachers to give more homework to pupils and this is not the solution when dealing with anxiety and emotional stress.”
Maluleke added pupils needed more recess and sports to heal from the collective trauma caused by the pandemic.He said some teachers in schools with social capital provided support to teachers.
“In schools serving communities that have no social capital, it’s impossible to provide support to teachers because parents work far from home to help their children,” he said.
Maluleke said on the employer’s side there was a feeling from teachers that the employers lacked the appreciation of the current situation.
“Instead of being supportive, the employer is punitive and allowing the teachers to have time to heal by allowing schools to reflect based on the internal assessment,” Maluleke said.
He said teachers felt employers were not promoting professional autonomy, which encompasses the professional judgment of the teachers.
“So, yes, the employer is under pressure to recover but education and teaching don’t work within recovery brackets because relationships must be built and that cannot be achieved in an inflexible environment,” Maluleke said.
Democratic Alliance Gauteng shadow MEC for education Khume Ramulifho said the province had passionate and committed teachers who were navigating through a difficult time.
“With so many uncertainties about the pandemic, having 94% of education personnel vaccinated is a sign that indeed they want to continue teaching our children,” Ramulifho said.
Ramulifho said the supply of sanitisers and masks played a positive role in ensuring a conducive working environment.
“However, lack of infrastructure leading to overcrowding and the rotational system is putting huge pressure on them as they will not complete curriculum delivery and some pupils are dropping out of the system,” he said.
Department of basic education spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga said the department had been in contact with teacher unions from the start of the pandemic.
Mhlanga said regular weekly meetings had taken place to ensure that the plight of teachers was well understood and covered, as articulated by the leadership of organised labour.
“The interventions put in place were informed by their input. The department also has the teacher appreciation and support programme through which various services are made available to ensure their wellbeing is addressed,” Mhlanga said.
He said the department knew the work of teachers had been further complicated by the emergence of Covid, which had disrupted the schooling sector in a manner never seen before.
He added the department sought to improve its teacher appreciation and support programme by introducing other elements that were geared towards elevating the contribution of teachers in the education sector.
“As a result of the efforts made by teachers under extreme conditions, the department has introduced new awards to pay homage to individuals who have demonstrated commitment, dedication and sacrifice,” Mhlanga said.