State slammed for employing Cuban educators

Department credits specialists with improvements in education system

An organisation representing parents of schoolchildren says it is unfair for government to hire education professionals from Cuba.
An organisation representing parents of schoolchildren says it is unfair for government to hire education professionals from Cuba.
Image: 123RF

An organisation representing parents of schoolchildren has slammed the government for hiring Cuban educational specialists to beef up skills of local maths and science teachers. 

The National Association of School Governing Bodies' general secretary, Matakanye Matakanye, told SowetanLIVE during an interview that there were many teachers who were unemployed and the government should prioritise them over foreign teachers.

Matakanye also accused the government of failing to create a strong local capacity of specialist teachers.

“There are lots and lots of university graduates who are not working and we don't get the department's logic of taking people from outside our country when our people are not working. If this was happening five or 10 years after democracy, it would be understandable. It is unacceptable that the department [of basic education] is still getting educators from Cuba and Zimbabwe after 26 years [of democracy]," he said.

Matakanye said this showed that there was something flawed with the curriculum used to train local teachers. “The department must understand that it is now time that we want our own educators whose teaching will reflect the struggles and power of South Africans,” he said.

Matakanye's says came after the department revealed that Cuban specialists had been on its payroll for several years.

Departmental spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga told Power 98.7 that the Cubans were not employed as teachers.

“They are specialists ... based at the department of basic education ... others are in provinces and they have done a lot of [work]. If you look at the research that has been done and improvements in the system, it is because of the contribution they have made. So, they have been there for some years,” said Mhlanga.

He said it would be difficult to quantify their contribution in rand and cents. Mhlanga said some of the specialists helped local teachers with strategies for teaching maths “in a way that would make an improvement”.

“Others are working in district offices to create capacity for our colleagues at that level to be able to work...”

He said the Cubans arrived immediately after basic education minister Angie Motshekga re-established the maths, science and technology unit in her department.

Mhlanga added that research had shown that the country was generally performing poorly when it came to maths and science and Motshekga had to rope in “external capacity".​

Sadtu general secretary Mugwena Maluleke said the Cuban educators were brought in by government as part of its relationship with Cuba and were contracted to occupy administration level positions.

“They (Cuban educators) are helping to refine text books and methodologies on how to teach in rural and under-resourced schools..." he said.

Maluleke, however, said teachers from Zimbabwe were brought into the country to teach maths and science, which are scarce skills subjects.

“We wouldn't be in support of the government if they brought in teachers who are not regarded as scarce skills,” he said.

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