Monday, August 11, 2014

Education comes first!

                 The Reservation of Separate Amenities Act (1953) enforced social segregation in all public amenities, such as transport, cinemas, restaurants and sports facilities (Wooden, 2012).  Still evident of the Act were communities of Black South Africans struggling in a new economy and exposed to new requirement either without or with limited resources for sustainability.  There were pockets of poverty scattered around Port Elizabeth as we drove to our destinations.  Every morning we would look out of the window of the van at houses made of containers and other sheet metal with no plumbing or running water.  Food and other resources were also very scarce. 
                  A beautiful site every morning was watching the many learners walk to school dressed in their uniforms.  I reflected upon American students who complain about riding the school bus everyday and question their dedication to education.  Our South African learner at Emafini never complained about the travel to and from school.  They valued being at school to receive and education as well as some food and adequate shelter.  Educational apartheid was enforced in schools (1953), technical colleges (1955), and universities (1959) (Wooden, 2012).   Many of the schools that we visited were segregated.  This was very reminiscent of the time period when US schools were undergoing desegregation.  Many schools and school districts were resistant to the changes and prolonged the process.  Just like apartheid, South African schools continue to be segregated, separate and not equal.  Educational provisions for Africans have been unequal and most government schools separated white and African pupils (Wooden, 2012).  
                However at Cape Recife learners are able to co-exist within the same school environment without the racial barriers that are still holding some back and helping others to be successful.  All learners at Cape Recife are facing another challenge that has everything to do with education and learning.  They all have some type of disability that prevents them from accessing regular education.  The school provides academic, physical, and social/emotional supports to help conquer some these challenges for their learners.  It was evident in our visit that it is about need...for eduction and that's what schools are made for!

(Schools shown below are: The Gray, Cape Recife, and Emafini)

The New South Africa...still a struggle.

               The New South Africa continues to evolve and is a thriving country.  Many South Africans have recovered from the effects and challenges of apartheid, but many have not.  As we lived with in the community of Port Elizabeth, we witnessed the effects of poverty, homelessness, unemployment, and chronic health issues.  Elements of survival were seen in prostitution, bartering, and selling hand-made goods for profit.   Many of the black South Africans are still feeling the real economic effects of poverty, lack of education and the separation from the larger society.     There is a very definitive separation between black, colored, white, and Indians in South Africa. “The cornerstone of apartheid was the division of all South Africans by race”(Wooden, 2012).
                  This divide was seen in housing communities, work environments, and in the school sector.  Many colored inhabitants of Cape Town suburbs were relocated in segregated areas on the fringes of the city: plans for the demolition of the central District Six area had in fact been formulated before the Second World War (Wooden, 2012).  Much like the housing projects in the US, many poverty-stricken people resort to low income housing areas.  Many are subjected to substandard conditions of living but require immediate refuge or homelessness would be imminent. 

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

The impact of economic disparity on education- the haves and the have nots

 The Freedom Charter of the ANC was grounded by the clause that South Africa belongs to all who live in it, black and white, and no government can justly claim authority unless it is based on the will of the people… the rights of the people shall be the same regardless of race, color or sex. (Wooden, p. 115). 

A common theme that I observed in working at Emafini and then visiting other schools is the great disparity within the same system.  In the US we also experience this dynamic and the consequences of how it impacts student learning and achievement. I can’t help but to reflect on this everyday as we work with the learners at Emafini.  There reality is drastically different than the learners attending The Gray.  Access to resources and instructional technology are practically non-existent at Emafini.  At The Gray, learners have access to a full library filled with books, parent volunteers, and computer labs with access for each learner, and classrooms with whiteboards.  At Emafini the learning experience is consumed with a make-shifted library with limited texts for students, classrooms with blackboards that need to be replaced, no instructional resources available for teaching and learning, and classrooms with poor lighting and unclean. 

The ANC demanded that all apartheid laws and practices shall be set aside and called for equal access to health, education, and legal rights.  The vision of future South Africa as strongly rooted in democracy and multiculturalism, but the commitment to social and economic transformation had less clear directives (Wooden, p. 116)

I have never believed that educators had to have the newest instructional technology supports or newest resources in order to teach effectively and demonstrate positive student progress.  However, I will say that when basic educational resources are not equitably provided for all students it is very discouraging.   The learners at Emafini are not afforded an equitable education as their Gray counterparts.  Much like the US, learners are expected to demonstrate the same level of competency as their peers regardless of the access to instructional resources, which support student learning.   We know that student exposure and experiences play a huge factor in their learning.  The learners of Emafini have limited opportunities outside of their school community to develop some of the skills that other students from more affluent communities would be afforded.  We experience the same dynamic in the US and try to address this though school trips, exhibits, events, and create options for students to level the learning experience for all students.  Although this is a constant challenge for many schools, we recognize the importance of student’s prior experiences and background knowledge are in helping them build on new learning. 

Despite diversity, most viewed South Africa as a dual economy with two distinct societies: a white urban and capitalist agrarian system on one hand and a rural impoverished and stagnating African sector on the other.” (Wooden, p. 2)

The learners at Emafini are challenged with lack of funding for resources, equipment, and facilities maintenance.  The learning atmosphere is almost the polar opposite of The Gray.  The teaching expectations for student learning are the same.  It is very reminiscent of the US time period of integration after de-segregation.  Many school districts were charged with creating “separate, but equal” educational institutions.  However, many faced some of the same perils as Emafini…separate but NOT equal.  Emafini is a predominately black school that now has a colored Principal. At The Gray, the majority of the student body consists of white students.  Parent support included volunteering and financial donations.  Students are expected to pay tuition to attend which also supplements the limited government funding that is received by all schools.  The detriment for Emafini is that it still suffers from the effects of apartheid.  Parents are not financially able to pay tuition to help supplement the school’s limited funding.  Parent support at Emafini is seen in forms of volunteering in various unpaid positions within the school building.  The governmental agencies are aware of these discrepancies but do not make previsions to accommodate the differences between schools.  

After 1945 white supremacism began to wane as many colonies began the move towards independence, but in South Africa discrimination became even more entrenched. (Wooden, p. 73).  South Africa developed into a systematic and legalized discrimination shaping the economic, social and political structure of the whole country in a more pervasive way than anywhere else. (Wooden, p. 73)

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Link to earlier post on July 23.  Sorry but it didn't post to the original blog.  Thanks.

Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University visit and the role of the South African School Principal

            Our group met with Dean of Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University.    The campus is beautiful!  Just like in the US, the university has partnerships with the local school district and provides teacher preparation programs.  We were able to discuss the current structure of the teacher preparation programs, its evolution and future goals for improving teaching and learning.  The Dean shared some of the challenges of the program and providing education to include limited resources for teachers and principals, the impact of parenting on student learning, and the inequality that many of the schools faced.   The Dean expressed a concerned that many of the schools were in bondage and unable to achieve high standards because of these challenges.  Schools are evaluated by their grade 12 results.  She expressed the importance of understanding the data to really evaluate the success of school buildings recognizing all factors involved in determining school progress.  She shared that there was a similar struggle like the US to get more black male teachers and maintaining a pool of qualified teachers.  The government had offered various incentive programs for teachers much like the US to secure a highly qualified teaching workforce. 

            The Dean shared that much like many schools in the US, many schools in South Africa also lacked the community involvement and support needed to be successful schools.   She said that children come into the schools with a variety of social/psycho issues that need attention often as a prerequisite to teaching and learning.   Much like the US, many of the children experience poverty, abuse, neglect, and unaddressed mental health issues.  At Emafini, we have experienced that learners are provided more time to socialize, talk, and participate in customs that help to support school community and increase a sense of belonging.  In comparison, US school systems are very concerned with the academic performance of students and the social/emotional pieces are often times minimized.  Many US schools work to implement programs to address student needs more effectively while also making sure that students are academically successful.  This takes the efforts of many staff members.  At the South African schools that we have visited, there were no social workers or school counselors.  Our US schools typically utilize people in these positions to address the social/emotional concerns of learners.  It appears that in South African schools, that teachers and other school personnel have to develop creative and sometimes non-traditional methods to make sure that their learners are healthier socially and emotionally which often times may not be connected to the objectives and goals student learning. 

            This dynamic has been very concerning for me as a school administrator.  In the US we have very structured daily schedules with processes for addressing students needs that are not specific to academic learning.  Here students/teachers are often seen outside of the classrooms either during class periods or are allowed to dismiss prior to the end of the school day.  The South African “time table” is more relaxed than the traditional US class daily schedule for students.  US schools typically schedule all half-day events in advance.  The building South African Principal or School Leadership manages teacher learning as one of the most important activities” (Bush, Joubert, Kiggundu, & Rooyen).  However there are some similarities in the differences between the US and South African school building leader.  The South African Standard for School Leadership, has established that:

The core purpose of principalship is to provide leadership and management in all areas of the school to enable the creation and support of conditions under which high quality teaching and learning take place and which promote the highest possible standards of learner achievement.

            South African principals are “mainly concerned with financial management, human resource management, and policy issues, with the management of teaching and learning’ was ranked only seventh of 10 leadership activities in a survey of more than 500 Gauteng principals (Bush, Joubert, Kiggundu, & Rooyen, p. 162).  South African principals have “little experience of instructional leadership but managing teaching and learning is one of the core modules in South Africa’s national ACE: School Leadership program, recognizing that this is perceived as a crucial role for school principals, deputy principals and heads of department (HoDs)”. (Bush, Joubert, Kiggundu, & Rooyen, p. 163).  South African principals focus primarily on:
  • ·      Overseeing the curriculum across the school
  • ·      Ensure that lessons take place
  • ·      Evaluating learner performance through scrutiny of assessment data
  • ·      Monitoring the work of HoDs (Head of Departments), through scrutiny of this work plans and portfolios.
  • ·      Ensuring that HoDs monitor the work of educators within their learning areas
  • ·      Arrange program of class visits followed up by feedback to educators
  • ·      Ensure the availability of appropriate learning and teaching support materials.

            Throughout our observations and conversations, we have found that the Principal relies heavily on the HoDs to be the instructional leaders within the school environment.  They are seen in and out of the classrooms, and working with teachers and students.  In talking to the Principal and School District level leadership we have learned that teacher unions have enforced mandates and regulations, which have altered the supervision of teachers and Principals as instructional leaders as we know it in the US.  There is a teacher evaluation system that consists of annual administrator reviews and peer observations conducted by the HoDs.  Some teacher/educators did share their concerns about having administrative interviews which were similar to our US inception of teacher evaluation programs.  We could hear in the teacher comments and the District level representative that they were still working on establishing the trust necessary for and effective evaluation process to occur.   It has taken years for our process to become what we have today in US schools and I trust that with time and continued professional development as we have had, their processes will eventually become more successful. 

            The Dean at MMU did leave us with a final message that I think will remain with us forever.  She said, “Take on the challenge of where you are needed the most and NOT where you are the most comfortable”.


Bush, T. , Joubert, R., Kiggundu, E., & Rooyen, J., 2010.  Managing teaching and learning in South  African schools.  International Journal of    Educational Development 30, 162-168.