Conversations with a rural school teacher
Overworked and underpaid - South Africa's teachers are struggling.
(Shutterstock: Spirit of America)
We’ve all seen the challenges that school teachers face in South Africa. They are often said to be demotivated and facing a lot of challenges. I decided to have a chat with a teacher and find out about these challenges that teachers, especially in rural schools, face.

Miss Khonza is expected to teach 4 grades, from Grade 4-7. She says that the expectations are high but the school has few teachers and they have to divide themselves amongst all these classes. She says that the curriculum being introduced in schools is not something they have been trained in, like technology. She doesn’t understand all of what is being introduced and learns the subject for the sake of teaching the kids.

In some cases she is in a rush to finish the syllabus and whether the kids understand she cannot say. As stipulated by the Department of Education they cannot let a child repeat the same grade twice and they have to let the child pass. This then catches up with the kid in higher grades because they missed it in the foundation phase.

Other challenges they face are children coming from poverty stricken homes, child abuse and broken families. Over and above them being teachers they also need to be counsellors because a child will come to school with emotional baggage and they need to deal with that bearing in mind that they are already short staffed. Some pupils come to schools having dealt with parents who were fighting the previous day, an uncle or step father who raped them or coming to school on an empty stomach.

Some parents in rural areas do not show any interest in school activities and the progress of their kids. They even outsource the disciplining of their kids to teachers, in some cases she says that you would hear parents saying to their child: “Why are you ill disciplined, what are they teaching you at school?” which is problematic. The fact that some parents are uneducated makes them less interested in the progress of their children because they themselves do not understand.

No ambition

Miss Khonza also says that some of the kids don't have big dreams for their lives – they don't see beyond their circumstances and surroundings. Some want to be security guards because they are fascinated by these people carrying batons at work with no further knowledge of what job entails.

As teachers they also feel demotivated by the low salary pay. They have a lot to deal with but do not feel appreciated. She says that if they were to be paid well they would be willing to go an extra mile.

I know that we are quick to judge teachers but this is just a tip of an iceberg in terms of the challenges that they face, especially in rural schools. I hope that Minister Angie Motsega can look into the future of our children and ensure that better systems are in place.

We have seen what happened in Limpopo with textbooks being delivered and the recent teacher strikes. Not every parent can afford to send their child to a private school for better education and our children deserve better.

Disclaimer: The views of columnists published on Parent24 are their own and therefore do not necessarily represent the views of Parent24.

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