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Pupils and parents demand new teacher

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Protest sparked by shockingly high failure rate in certain grades which they blame on a chronically absent teacher

Pupils and parents protested against high failure rate. Picture: Danie van der Lith

THE ENTRANCE to Letshego Primary School in Galeshewe was blockaded yesterday morning as pupils and parents protested against the shockingly high failure rate in certain grades, which they blame on a chronically absent teacher.

The pupils and parents carried placards and marched up and down the street, demanding that a new Setswana teacher be appointed at the school with immediate effect.

Parents stated that since the current Setswana teacher was employed at the school in January this year, she had never set foot inside a classroom.

“We will continue with protest action and no schooling will take place, until a new teacher is found,” they said.

“Setswana is the medium of instruction at the school and the majority of pupils in the intermediate phase have been failing.”

According to the school records, only 16 percent of Grade 5 pupils passed the second quarter, while in Grade 6 only 25 pupils out of a total of 71 passed, while 84 pupils out of a total of 95 (84 percent) failed Grade 7.

The parents added that eight months into the school year, their children’s work books were empty as the teacher was constantly booked off sick.

“Setswana is the medium of instruction at the school and it is mandatory for the children to pass their first language in order to pass the grade. The schools will go into recess next month and our children will once again have to write exams without any instruction.

“The entire school is taking part in the protest as they are angry and frustrated. The officials from the department arrive here in their fancy suits and cars and leave without resolving anything. They knew that this teacher has a history of absenteeism and yet nothing is being done about it.”

The parents also complained that only “lazy” teachers were employed at the school.

“The school is rotten to the core. The teachers are only concerned about collecting their pay cheques and are not concerned about teaching. It is irresponsible that teachers tell our children that they are dumb and that they hate them. The teachers send the children out during class to buy them fish and snoek.”

Parents indicated that another Setswana teacher, who had been appointed by the principal, was forced to leave the school due to non-payment.

“It is not the principal’s duty to hire and pay educators.”

They argued that there were suitable teachers who were locally based, who were desperate for work.

“Why must they bring in someone from outside who is never in class.”

The chairperson of the school governing body (SGB), Tumisang Sebotsa, stated that the Setswana teacher’s sick leave had been extended from August 8 until the end of September.

“The teacher has been absent for 81 days this year. Meanwhile, pupils are falling behind with their academic programme and will not be able to catch up all the work. If they fail, there will be in excess of 200 pupils in a class next year.”

Spokesperson for the provincial Department of Education, Geoffrey van der Merwe, stated that according to the records of the district office, the teacher had been absent from school for a period of 22 days between January 9 and August 18.

“The department has drafted a letter in which we declared our intention to charge her for misconduct for being absent from work without completing requisite leave forms. Presently, the said teacher submitted a doctor’s letter to the department. However, she is currently hospitalised and thus this letter could not be served.”

Van der Merwe added that the school principal had been instructed to submit the names of possible temporary teachers to replace the sick teacher.

“In addition to this, the department will continue to look in our database of unemployed qualified teachers to identify Setswana home language foundation phase teachers.”

Van der Merwe pointed out that the availability of Setswana and Afrikaans home language teachers was a “major problem” in the Province.

“A meeting will be held between the department and the school to develop a support programme for the affected pupils.

“The department will continue to institute disciplinary measures against the said teacher.”