Creecy working to get Soweto schools back on track

Wednesday saw an “uneven” resumption of teaching at Soweto schools following last week’s disruptions by teachers, said Gauteng education minister Barbara Creecy.

“It’s uneven at this point in time and we will continue to do more work to get back on track,” said Creecy as she and community safety minister Khabisi Mosunkutu conducted a walkabout of schools in the area south of Johannesburg.

This walkabout follows last week’s disruptions to teaching when the education department obtained a labour court interdict declaring an ongoing teachers’ strike illegal.

Earlier this month, teachers disrupted schools in Soweto, Florida, Lenasia and Eldorado Park over grievances about the appointment of principals in schools.

Creecy said the first school they visited on Wednesday was Senoane High School in Soweto, where two weeks ago the principal was assaulted by the teachers.

“The situation at Senoane is still quite problematic,” said Creecy in a telephonic interview.

“There seems to be some tension within the teacher body.”

She said some teachers were out on bail for their alleged involvement in the assault. Others were concerned at what their colleagues had been involved in.

Creecy said she had called for an independent investigation into the assault and the circumstances around it.

Nevertheless, whatever reasons the investigation found to be behind the assault, Creecy said “it is not acceptable for people to be involved in violent actions”.

She said exams needed to resume at the school, but teachers had told her that the photocopy machine was broken and so they could not print exam papers.

An official from the district had been instructed to sort this out.

Creecy said her overall impression was that the situation was uneven as other schools had started writing exams.

She said at every stop she had made it clear that teaching was expected to continue.

Creecy said an investigation into the appointment of four principals that apparently sparked the protests had showed the process had been flawed.

“So we are setting up a panel to redo interviews.”

Creecy said she hoped to get through the process within the next two to three weeks so that the appointments were made before school resumed after the June-July holidays.

“My understanding is that there are certain requirements for organised labour to observe the [appointment] process.”

Creecy said a longer term problem underlying the disruptions was that it was taking “far too long” to fill vacancies.

One of the allegations was that one of the principal posts in the area had been vacant for 19 months.

“Obviously that is a recipe for problems.”

Creecy said she would visit the “virtually dysfunctional” Johannesburg West district offices on Wednesday and meet the staff there.

“I expect them to get back to work and get the show on the road.

“I expect them to come in force to visit every school and assist school management to reschedule exams.”

She said at Meadowlands High seven exams per grade had been missed. These now needed to be caught up but in such a way that students had enough time to study for them.

Matrics also had holiday programmes during which they could possibly catch up.

Asked whether her interventions would succeed in solving the current problems; “I’m going to give it my best shot,” said Creecy.—Sapa