TVET colleges need serious attention from government
As thousands of workers took to the streets yesterday as part of Cosatu's national strike over job losses, the National Education, Health and Allied Workers Union (Nehawu) vowed to embark on industrial action today until the issues affecting technical and vocational education and training (TVET) and community education and training (CET) colleges are resolved.
Part of Nehawu's demands include stagnation of salaries and benefits of TVET lecturers, an incorrect salary scale used by the department of higher education and training, non-application of section 198B(8)(a) of the Labour Relations Act for all qualifying contract workers in TVET and CET colleges, transferring of all college paid staff to the department and the introduction of a new salary dispensation for staff.
These issues are fundamental, long-existing and more contextual problems confronted by the college sector which pose a question as to whether the government has a capacity to configure the college system to accomplish the objectives of the white paper for post-school education and training by 2030.
The answer to this is that the college system still does not function in a co-ordinated way envisaged by the white paper and has made this sector to purportedly appear to form a separate system within the broader higher educational system.
What's shocking however is the continuous failure of the department to fast-track college-by-college turnaround strategy and set up sound mechanisms in place that would arrest a senseless slide towards a crisis in this sector.
Notwithstanding progress of building a post-school education and training system that is beginning to gain traction, the government has a long history of gravely neglecting to construct an expanded, effective and integrated TVET college landscape.
This historical neglect is the failure to ensure that development needs are identified to strengthen and expand the public TVET colleges to meet the international standards and that relevant programmes are developed to improve the status, capacity and livelihoods of college lecturers.
Aside from professional development programmes for TVET lecturers that are still moving at a snail's pace, the issue of transforming the salary structure has been remarkably overlooked since these colleges migrated to the department which has, to some degree, prompted greater indignation among lecturers.
In her research paper, professor Ronel Blom identified the main barriers that confront colleges. She wrote: "It has emerged that current conditions of service and the casualisation of work in general have had a major impact on TVET lecturers' motivation to learn and to update their skills to meet the additional demands."
She goes further to illustrate that "TVET teachers' perceived low status and the lack of a professional identity, compounded by apathy of institutional managers and restrictive funding regimes, seem to exacerbate the situation".
A great deal of effort needs to go into ensuring that lecturers are motivated and supported within a well-resourced, efficient and effectively governed system.
- Ncobela is an economics lecturer