26 Jan OR Knew The Value Of Education
On January 8 every year, the ANC celebrates its birthday in a January statement intended to outline its annual plan of action.
This year’s celebration was dedicated to one of its iconic founding fathers and former president Oliver Reginald Tambo, affectionately known as OR.
As I analyse the national discourse on this celebration, I feel compelled to shed some light on his less-published achievements in education, as he was not only a consummate politician and a lawyer of note, but also an extraordinary science and maths teacher.
As Qwalela pleasurably recalls, “Tambo was an exceptionally effective and engaging teacher who had a profound moral and social influence on the student community.
“He was an efficient teacher of mathematics and science, insisting students attain good marks in these subjects. And the end-of year exam results were a sound testament to his teaching ability.”
A careful analysis of OR’s legacy as a teacher reveals that he was one of the few who realised that maths and science education provides solid foundations of knowledge essential for acquiring critical skills in areas such as business sciences, engineering and natural sciences, something that was denied to millions of Africans under the apartheid regime.
OR was indeed a shining example of how a person can be both an accomplished teacher and a visionary leader in education against all odds.
As David James Smith succinctly put it: “As a young teacher at the mission school St Peter’s in Johannesburg, he had been a popular figure at the school, respected and admired by staff as well as pupils, as a man with firm beliefs and a sense of fairness.”
Additionally, “OR Tambo … was passionate about education because he understood that it causes heightened consciousness and is humanities’ biggest benefactor”, as the Solomon Mahlangu Freedom College noted.
Evidently, OR’s educational philosophy was based on the premise that education should heighten awareness and consciousness as espoused by Paul Freire, the Brazilian philosopher and educationist who pioneered critical thinking as a progressive teaching and learning model, where education is a genuine dialogue between educators and pupils.
Thus it was necessary for his students to analyse situations, solve problems and to make decisions in a thoughtful manner.
Among others, Duma Nokwe, BSc, Joe Matthews, MA and attorney at law and Andrew Mlangeni, who themselves became activists and stalwarts in their own right, were testimony to his legacy.
The appropriate uses of this approach in our education system will assist both pupils and educators to develop their intellectual skills central to the tenets of critical thinking and interactive learning as envisioned by OR, and some of his contemporaries.
Inter alia, these include analytical and problem-solving skills.
This approach will add enormous value as it will deliver essential educational services as the country grapples with finding workable solutions to eradicate recalcitrant educational challenges.
In order to inject more life into our education system, we need to design and implement a system that grants special recognition and promotion and material benefits to those educators who demonstrate that they can teach efficiently – and the teachers’ union should support initiatives and interventions aimed at measuring and evaluating a teacher’s performance regularly.
This step will improve the performance of our education system and will ultimately remove those who don’t meet the required standards, or those who cannot improve.
Clearly, our schools need more resources and our teachers should be adequately trained as there is an enormous demand for highly qualified educators.
Additionally, in order to improve the quality of our public education system we must employ stringent methods of accountability and periodic evaluation of school principals as this practice has been found to be effective elsewhere.
“Regardless of its location, what makes a good school excellent is leadership. You can find schools in the poorest and most disadvantaged areas achieving success against the odds. as a document, titled OR Tambo Debate: where is the accountability in schools in education, states.
“The common denominator here is often the principal as a leader who will focus on teamwork, commitment and passion. Importantly, leadership is about more than just good management skills.
“It also involves vision and curriculum leadership,” as a document titled OR Tambo Debate: where is the accountability in schools in education, states.
It is my firm belief that the majority of parents, pupils, policy-makers, employers and social activists would welcome these measures as they have the potential to preserve the integrity of the noble teaching profession, and of ensuring that our education system is only served by the best teachers and principals.
And that our young ones are only taught by the very best cohorts of professionals, as the country seeks to create a more just and equitable society.
As our country faces cut-throat global economic competition we need an education system that can serve as a springboard for the majority of our talented students to acquire an assortment of marketable skills.”
These measures would substantially enhance South Africa’s ability to deal with the chronic shortage of critical skills that require maths and science as the base for learning and economic growth, as these are essential skills required by an educated society.
OR’s would always be remembered as he had a huge impact as a teacher, a lawyer and a politician.
We should always draw inspiration from his legacy as we attempt to unpack the meaning of his life in an endeavour to ensure that our children acquire the skills essential for learning as they prepare for a future with dignity, productivity and fulfilling lives.
–Sello Mokoena is head of research and policy for the Gauteng department of social development.
Sourced from The New Age