Part 5, end of week 5, that is where we are at!! I feel so happy and I feel blessed. I could not have asked for a more amazing teaching practice (TP) experience. Has it been easy? No! Has it been a smooth ride? Nope! Has it been challenging? Yes! Do I love it even more because of the challenge? Absolutely!
However, I do not want to put too much focus on my experiences today. I sort of want to bring forward some of the realities of being a teacher in SA as a whole. I have had an amazing time at my school, but I have to admit that, although it is a public school, it is still an outlier to what the public school education system is really like in the country. By outlier, I mean that, when one thinks of public school education, we tend to think “lacking something”, whether it is sanitation, infrastructure, resources or quality in the education itself or the teachers providing that education. Outlier simply means that it does not fall into that stream of thought; so it feels more like private school education, the thoughts that come up would be technologically oriented, quality in everything, and above average functionality of the school. If only every public school could feel private, in that way we can try to ensure quality and affordability at the same time. I am not saying education should be privatised, I am only referring to the feel that we get when think about the idea.
Obviously, I am not in PGCE alone, I think we have a PGCE class of over 200 students, spread all over Cape Town during this TP. If there could exist a spectrum that could measure types and characteristics of different schools in the city, I would say we are all sitting on that spectrum at multiple different points of it. I am saying no two schools will ever be the same even if they are situated across the road from one another. My fellow students are a testament to that.
The realities of being a teacher in SA can be quite harsh and difficult to face. One of the most obvious realities are to do with the teacher:learner ratio, 1 teacher sitting in a class of 30+ learners per period and then is the only one out of maybe 2 or 3 teachers teaching a subject, maybe maths. I think that is a scary/stressful/traumatic situation to be in. Sadly, it is the situation in almost every part of the country. There are not enough qualified teachers who are passionate about what they do.
Another reality we face is one of violence in schools either between the learners themselves or the learners and teachers. I am sort of referring to violence in a broad manner that would include sexual harrassment, bullying, gang violence, verbal, corporal punishment discipline tactics etc. Many people have said to me that they avoided the teaching profession because of how they remember themselves when they were in school. I have also be told, “don’t teach at a boys’ school, they are always disrespctful to new teachers/student-teacher.” I have heard of fights breaking out at some of me peer’s schools. So much violence in various forms. Then add that to having to deal with an overcrowded class. Some teachers are true heros.
I guess a reality of this era, has everything to so with the pandemic that is COVID19 (all the variants). I am happy that where I am, everyone is cautious of the virus. Sanitizers everywhere, learners walk in and sanitize desks and chairs for one another. All protocols are strictly followed. When learners are at home isolating they have the option to log into the classroom via video call platforms, but as I have mentioned, I am an outlier. The reality is most schools cannot put all these protocols in place, and learners as well as teachers do not care as much as they should. It puts many people in danger. Unfortunately, many of my peers have been sick from it and requesting that TP should be over. If I were in that position, I would probably wish the same. There aren’t enough resources to accommodate everyone’s needs. If I were sick, I would probably be able to continue TP online with some plan in place. However the reality is that most schools do not have their physical space “right” so it makes it slightly harder to even think about the online space.
These are only a few highlights of what most teachers in public schools are facing in most parts of the country. There are some amazing public schools, I do not disregard that. My primary school education was done in a public school and I was able to integrate into a semi-private/independent high school without any hassles. It is possible for public schools to be quality and functional, we just to need figure out ways to get the poorest of schools on the same page.
Thank you for your time! What are your thoughts on the topic? Leave a comment, like and share widely!