‘Nzimande indicates left, Nene right’

Red row: Sadtu says the treasury is preventing Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande from reopening teacher colleges. (Oupa Nkosi, MG)

Red row: Sadtu says the treasury is preventing Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande from reopening teacher colleges. (Oupa Nkosi, MG)

The South African Democratic Teachers’ Union (Sadtu) blames Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene for the failure to reopen teacher training colleges. It says his “austerity posture” stifles progress.

Sadtu does not blame the stalling on Higher Education and Training Minister Blade Nzimande who in 2012 announced plans to revive three former teacher training colleges.

Only the former KwaNdebele College of Education in Siyabuswa, Mpumalanga has been successfully reopened – there has been no word on Nzimande’s plans to open a former teacher training college in KwaZulu-Natal and another in the Eastern Cape. 

In the 1990s, the education ministry under the late Kader Asmal shut down the institutions, leaving the training of teachers to universities.

The general secretary of Sadtu, Mugwena Maluleke, told the Mail & Guardian that Nzimande and Nene’s plans are at odds and hence the failure to reopen the colleges.

“It’s like driving a double-decker bus.
If you have Nzimande driving the lower deck and Nene driving the upper side, clearly you’re going to have an accident.

“At no stage can you co-ordinate who’s going to turn left and who’s going to turn right.

“So you have Nzimande indicating left and Nene indicating right. That’s where the problem is. Nzimande says he’s got a programme to reopen the colleges in the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal, but treasury says ‘no, we don’t have money’.”

Maluleke defended Nzimande: “How do you assess ministries when they cannot deliver, not because of their own failure? In this instance, it’s not Blade that’s failing, but the treasury that is failing him.”

Treasury spokesperson Phumza Macanda did not respond to Sadtu’s accusations, but told the M&G: “The fiscus is under pressure, hence the introduction of cost-containment measures by [Nene] to curb spending across spectrums.”

Higher education department official Diane Parker said that, “after some investigation”, Nzimande decided against reviving the teacher college he had identified in KwaZulu-Natal. “Consideration was still being given to the development” of old campuses in the Eastern Cape, but “this does not constitute backtracking”.

Sadtu, the biggest teacher union in the country, which claims to have 250?000 members and is aligned to the ruling party, is demanding that teacher training colleges must reopen, arguing that this would mean better teachers.

“Universities are doing their work. But they do not focus on the real issue, which is pedagogy. They focus more on the knowledge or the ­theory,” Maluleke said.

Senior teachers also need dedicated institutions for continued development, he said. “Teaching has to be improved on an annual basis because technology is improving and the world is changing.”

A quantitative study released last month, which was carried out by the Centre for Development and Enterprise, an independent policy research and advocacy organisation, concluded that the country’s universities do not produce quality teachers.

Pedagogical knowledge
“Researchers and government agree the subject content knowledge and pedagogical knowledge of most South African teachers is poor; this is a major cause of inadequate learner achievement,” the report said.

“That teachers lack essential knowledge and skills points to inadequate training, which is provided through … programmes at higher education institutions in South Africa.”

Maluleke said the teacher training colleges should re-emerge as satellite campuses of universities, but still maintain a college-training culture. “The science of teaching is such that on-job training is very important”.

However, reopening teacher training colleges will be a challenge: some of the campuses have been taken over by other government departments.

The former Moretele College of Education in Makapanstad in North West was turned into a provincial government office complex in 2010.

The Gauteng education department has turned the old Soweto College of Education and Hebron College of Education in Mabopane, outside Pretoria, into district offices. – Additional reporting by Mmanaledi Mataboge

Bongani Nkosi

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