The teacher was angry and rightly so. She asked me: “Why should we all be tarred with the same brush?” The day before, this teacher had been talking to someone who stated that all South African schools were in a total mess. To prove his point, he referred to the state of Eastern Cape public schools, the “pawpaws of Limpopo” responsible for the textbook delivery saga and that in 2012 there are still schools that use pit toilets. Yes, there are very many schools in a dire state. However, there are also thousands of public and private schools that give millions of pupils an education that ranges in quality from good to world-class. Many of these schools have few resources and some of them do not charge fees or, if parents do pay, the fees are a few hundred rand a year.The angry teacher was teaching at a Gauteng public school with an excellent reputation. She loves teaching and d escribed her pupils as happy, highly motivated and well disciplined. She commented that 99% of them were a delight to teach.
There is a mistaken belief that the good name of a school will simply spread by word of mouth: parents will talk about the school to each other and their children will talk to their peers from other schools. That is true, but it is not enough to change perceptions about the state of education in South Africa. A bit of “hard selling” is sometimes needed to change the attitude of people such as the person who made the ignorant comment to the angry teacher. Where there is quality education, it needs to be advertised to make others aware of it. In the world outside education, this is done all the time. Advertisers use the actual word “quality” to describe products and services. If the claims of quality in the advertisements are true, sales soar.
Attracting quality pupils
A quality school usually attracts more “quality” children and a waiting list to get into the school develops. Most parents will do their best to support the school and be committed to helping the school to become even better. We should not be shy to tell the world of the quality to be found in our classrooms and schools. There is a wonderful chance for this to happen on Thursday November 8. That is World Quality Day, the focus day of World Quality Week, on which thousands of schools and organisations worldwide will celebrate quality achievements and efforts. In previous years schools have celebrated World Quality Day in ways that have been academic, creative, exciting and a great deal of fun. For example, a team of pupils festooned their school entrance foyer with green and white balloons, the official colours of World Quality Day.
They put up displays of quality achievements by pupils and teachers. There were photos of all their teachers with a banner stating “Our Quality Pupils have Quality Teachers”. A poster competition was held in which entrants were asked to create a quality slogan. The art teachers focused on teaching pupils how to create eye-catching posters. In the language lessons, the pupils were taught how to use a few words for maximum effect. One primary school has an annual secret ballot in every class to vote for the “quality kid of the class”. The pupils choose someone who has lived the core values of the school. From the list of class winners, the teachers then select an onverall winner for the school. This idea could be adapted to give awards in different sport and cultural activities. Life orientation lessons have been used for developing introspection, self-esteem and respect. Pupils were asked to write about themselves starting with the words: “I’m a Quality Kid/ Person because …”
At a school assembly there was a discussion of what the word “quality” means. Pupils spoke about icons of exceptional quality such as Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela and Mother Teresa. They also spoke about quality people in their own lives. Two of the core values at one school were caring and compassion. Every grade was involved in a project that reached out to the local community. It took a variety of forms such as a litter clean-up of a nearby park, collecting and delivering food to an animal welfare society as well as singing songs and having a singalong at a retirement home. So, do not let anyone trash your good name as a professional teacher and that of your school. Show them the quality. Remember World Quality Day on Thursday November 8. The day is a time for celebration.
Richard Hayward is a former principal of two Gauteng public schools. Total Quality Education programmes are carried out under the aegis of the South African Quality Institute. Poor schools are sponsored. If you would like more details, please contact Vanessa du Toit at 012 349 5006 or [email protected]; Richard Hayward at 011 888 3262 or [email protected]