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Motshekga: Empower pupils to speak out against abuse, racism

Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga says racism should be confronted on an ongoing basis.

FILE: Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga. Picture: EWN.

JOHANNESBURG - In the wake of the St John’s College racism debacle, Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga says pupils should be empowered to speak out against racism and any other forms of abuse in the classroom.

Geography teacher Keith Arlow was forced to resign last week after being found guilty of serious offences, including victimising pupils based on race.

Motsekga was speaking on the sidelines of a dialogue on how to professionalise teaching in South Africa.

The minister says racism should be confronted on an ongoing basis.

“When the teacher makes those racist remarks, there is no one else except the teacher and the learners. You must also empower your learners.”

She says she is proud that pupils, not only at St John’s College, are standing up for their rights.

“It could also be the rising consciousness among our learners that won’t allow themselves to be trampled upon without screaming.”

The Basic Education Minister says she's satisfied with how MEC Panyaza Lesufi handled the case and hopes it will send a strong message that racist behaviour will not be tolerated.

URGENT NEED TO PRIORITISE TEACHER TRAINING

At the same time, professional standards for educators in South Africa have come under the microscope with calls for teacher training to be made more vigorous.

The discussion on teaching was focused around a new report by the Centre for Development (CDE) and Enterprise.

The report has highlighted the urgent need to prioritise teacher training in the country.

CDE's Anne Bernstein said: “South African teachers are generally not being given the necessary skills and tools to be effective teachers.”

While Motshekga agrees there’s still a lot more that needs to be done in order to equip teachers, she says there are a number of programmes that have been put in place.

“South African Democratic Teachers Union, for instance, has its own teacher development centre. SAU has some of the best programmes. All of them, National Teachers Union have got their programme. So there’s lots of work happening.”

Most of the education officials who were present at this dialogue agree that the general lack of accountability in the profession is linked to poor training.

(Edited by Zinhle Nkosi)