27 March 2014

SADTU’s Quality Public Education Campaign

Education, Part 10a

SADTU’s Quality Public Education Campaign

SADTU recently launched a Promotion of Quality Public Education Campaign.

Says SADTU’s 2013 Human Rights Day (Sharpeville Day) Statement (attached):

“The national leadership of SADTU will soon embark on a nationwide information drive and the idea is to inform members, parents and communities about the initiative.

“The decision to come up with such a campaign is in line with SADTU’s 2030 Vision’s strategic pillar of Creating a Learning Nation.”

This is the tenth part of the Education course and the last item before we move to a new course on this platform, which will be the CU course on “Development”.

But Communist University courses are always open-ended.

We will therefore continue to post on SADTU’s Quality Public Education Campaign, as an extension of this course and for the record, as and when material is published that illuminates SADTU’s idea of quality in education.

·        The above is to introduce the original reading-texts: SADTU out to unite Teachers, Parents, Learners and Communities.

26 March 2014

SACP on Education

Education, Part 10

SACP on Education

The attached document contains extracts from the South Africa Road to Socialism (“SARS”), adopted at the 13th National Congress held in Ongoye, KZN, in July, 2012.

SARS says, among other things:

“Education is a major terrain for the battle of ideas. It can be used to empower the working class and popular strata, but it can and typically is used to perpetuate the ideologies of oppressive ruling classes.

“... The SACP must wage a struggle for curriculum transformation aimed at empowering the working class and the majority of our people to play a meaningful role in the transformation of society.

“... In waging the struggle for access to education it is important that that struggle is coupled with the struggle for the teaching of progressive ideas throughout our education system.”

The document also includes an extract from a media release of the SACP in February, 2013 during a public controversy started by the government over the naming of teaching as an “essential service”, a term which has implications for teachers’ rights in labour law.

In the course of that quotation the SACP comes out clearly in favour of education for liberation, and for People’s Education for People’s Power.

The SACP is therefore on record as being ready for a struggle over the nature of education in our society.

In addition, in the document, there are words describing the intended Political Education regime inside the SACP.

·        The above is to introduce the original reading-texts: SACP, SARS on Education and on Political Education, 2012.

18 March 2014

Language, Politics and Education

Education, Part 9

Language, Politics and Education

“The ANC is committed to the development of indigenous languages. We call on our government to prepare for the introduction of the teaching of our indigenous languages by 2014.”
ANC January 8th Statement, 2013

South Africa has 11 official languages, and these are not the only languages spoken, read and written in, in our country.

The latest South African legislation having to do with languages is the Use of Official Languages Act, 2012, gazetted on 1 October 2012.

South Africa has a Pan South African Languages Board, and there is a separate institution known as Kha Ri Gude Literacy Campaign, whose several objectives include the teaching of mother-tongue literacy, basic numeracy, and oral English to “adults who missed out on their schooling .

What is the concern of the Communist University in relation to languages? What would be the matters to discuss, about languages, in Communist University study circles, political schools and e-mail forums?

These questions must remain open, but we can attempt some provisional answers.

Language in the Communist University

The Communist University has its own language policy. It is that participants may use any language of their choice. It is not the responsibility of the speaker or the writer to translate his or her output.

Of course, this may mean that less people read or hear what the contributor is saying. That is something that contributors have to keep in mind and make choices about.

But in principle, we prefer that comrades use their first language, even though, in practice, most of the time they use English. We prefer that comrades use their first language because if they do not, then the spreading of our political dialogue will only reach as far as the boundaries of the English-speaking part of the population.

The Communist University wants to break through that barrier. Our objective is dialogue. The Communist University’s first and main necessity, therefore, is to foster reading and writing, and to adopt a method that is most conducive to the development of reading and writing habits among the participants.

There are other skills of communication, and we will set aside a full course called Agitprop that will cover song, graphic design, layout, clothing, and all kinds of means of expression. But here we are dealing with verbal communication, and from the point of view of language.


This will involve the development of dictionaries in all of the official languages that do not have them, which are all nine of the African official languages (isiNdebele, isiXhosa, isiZulu, seSotho sa Lebowa, siSwati, Tshivenda, and Xitsonga) of South Africa. Such a project could be assisted by the use of Wiktionary, a collaborative project for the development of language dictionaries (not translation dictionaries. An example is the “Wikamusi ya Kiswahili”, which contains 13,780 Kiswahili words, defined in Kiswahili. Every language needs a dictionary in the language itself. Every language needs a literature, composed and published in the language. Every language needs production of new literature in the language.

Language in School

The institution of 11 “official” languages in South Africa, sanctified by the Constitution, is as far as we know based on “human rights” precepts. Consequently, because human rights are passive, what has been done so far has not been very effective in terms of bringing the languages to life.

The teaching of children in the mother-tongue that they have from home when they enter school for the first time may be a human right. But if so, then it is not yet being well observed in South Africa. Motivation for change in this regard comes not from “human rights” but from the relatively poor rate of success in attempting to educate people in languages (English or Afrikaans) that they did not learn in the home and therefore do not, in the beginning of their schooling, know.

Imposing on young children the stress of attempting, at a very young age, to learn in language that they do not understand and have not yet been taught, is a cruelty and of course, it is not successful. On average, children who are presented with this hurdle, do not advance as fast as children who are welcomed into the formal education system in their own language.

Broader Political Considerations in relation to language

Politics, from the communist point of view, is the development of people, this being a social process that to happen properly must involve all. The National Democratic Revolution, to succeed and to complete its historic project, must organise the entire country into a communication, and a constant dialogue.

To do so by imposing, whether by design or by default, one single language, is something we as the SACP do not support, no matter what may have been thought in the past about nations needing to have a single, common language.


It follows that the matter of translation must be approached with care. It will not do to have the two former colonial languages, or more likely only one of them (English) being used as the bridge for translation between the speakers of indigenous languages. Such a situation will carry too much of a danger that the English language, which is enormously larger in vocabulary and literature than the South African indigenous languages are, will cease from being a medium, and will instead become a dominant source.

The problem of translation is one of serving a culture that is expressed in multiple languages. This is a different project from the colonial translation project, which had the aim of dominating the indigenous language-systems, taking ownership of them, and making a bridge by which all of the mother-tongue intellectuals could enter and dwell within the realm of the colonial lingua franca.

This distinction has to be asserted politically. Once accepted, it has technological implications which also have to be asserted. If not, then the gains won politically will be smuggled away in the technological execution.

Priority has to be given to the creation of new indigenous-language literature, including a first dictionary, in each language.


Since this item was composed and first published in early 2013, the CU has created a full course on languages.

This introduction has been re-edited, and a text has been found that will serve to codify the questions of language in relation to education. This new text is an article (attached) by Khethiwe Marais, who is a linguist, translator and language expert, currently at UNISA. Her article covers what is interesting to us about language when it comes to education, and the bind that we are in, that causes us to make a disadvantage out of a potential multilingual advantage. Marais points out that the dominance of English, with the advantages that it promises (but does not necessarily fulfil), makes parents into a conservative lobby within the education system.

·        The above is to introduce the original reading-text: Multilingualism and Democracy, Khethiwe Marais, 2014

14 March 2014

Good Intentions

Education, Part 8a

Good Intentions

The South African Council for Education (SACE), which is a registration council, has as a slogan “Towards Excellence in Education”.

Excelling what?

The Quality Learning and Teaching Campaign (QLTC; see attached) has the slogan “Ensuring Quality Learning and Teaching for All”.

What quality is it talking about?

Do any of the stakeholders (Departmental Official, Teachers, Learners, Parents and Community) think that “quality” means anything more than “good”, or “nice”?

The intentions are good. But the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Five years after the QLTC was signed, the teachers were being victimised. The obligations of the other four named stakeholder groups are forgotten.

Yet it was the teachers, and the SADTU teachers in particular, who “came to the party” with “Assessment for Learning”, under the auspices of the Curtis Nkondo Professional Development Institute, created by themselves. The teachers acted to make the QLTC a reality.

SADTU’s 2030 Vision statement, passed two years later in 2010 (attached) commits to (among the many other points), “creating, through our classroom commitments, a nation that learns and advances its civilisation.”

It goes on to say:

“The 2030 Vision represents a turning point in the history of SADTU and the pursuit of NDR objectives within the teacher community.

“The Vision is based on the view that we need to build a new teacher for an emerging South African society, rather than simply normalise something which was never normal.”

SADTU has taken repeated initiatives. SADTU’s Quality Public Education Campaign was launched on 8 March 2013.

It may be that, far from needing non-negotiability, South Africa needs a negotiation – a dialogue – about the quality of education; that is to say, about the nature of education, and what it is for. Merely declaring “non-negotiability” does not convert what is quantitatively relative, into something qualitatively absolute. Such a declaration only reveals a desire for firmness, while it displays a lack of firmness, a lack of concreteness, and equivocation between multiple bullet-points.

This course, so far, has explored what education might be, in its largest conception. We have found that the process of education is inseparable from politics, inseparable from liberation, and inseparable from a struggle for People’s Power.

The purpose of education is to change the world, and not to reproduce the status quo. SADTU recognises this.

Qualitative education will recognise, as Lev Vygotsky recognised, that it is qualitative crises that mark the education of a child in its development towards becoming an adult. It will recognise that these intense but necessary crises cannot be adequately comprehended quantitatively (i.e. by numbers).

Qualitative education will recognise that the social life of adults, as a community, must also pass through similar, but new, qualitative, revolutionary changes, and that the preparation of children for life must therefore also be, quite openly and explicitly, the preparation of children as revolutionaries.

No other kind of education will do, for South Africa.

·        The above is to introduce the original reading-texts: QLTC Non-Negotiables, 2008; The South African Democratic Teachers Union's 2030 Vision, 2010.

13 March 2014

Progress and Conflict

Education, Part 8

Progress and Conflict

The writing of this Communist University course on Education was planned for years. Actual preparation took more than a year. It was rolled out for the first time in early 2013, one year ago. Naturally, the struggle in education has continued. In the first iteration, there was reference to current conflicts within education at the time. The course would not be able to trace every topical event. But there will need to be some sort of update or editing of the topical material.

Up to this point, we have managed to tackle the main theoretical load that the course must carry, and continue to carry, in its successive annual re-presentations on the four CU channels.

We have looked at theories of mass public education such as N F S Grundtvig’s “Schools for Life”, an idea that survives in the form of the Danish folk-high-school movement; Paulo Freire’s “Pedagogy of the Oppressed”; and the Cuban “Universalisation of the University”. We have seen, through Lenin’s eyes, that all education is political. We have seen how the political conflict plays out in the realm of conventional theories of formal education, and through Jean Lave’s eyes, we have seen the relevance of Marx’s Third Thesis on Feuerbach, among others. We have understood, through Mike Cole’s, Andy Blunden’s and Lev Vygotsky’s eyes, that the conceptual separation of schooling from life is a mistake, and that the development of people is one historic and revolutionary process.

As with previous Communist University courses, the last parts of the course on Education have been reserved for the more current “problematic” facing South Africa, in the light of the theoretical review that is comprised in the earlier parts. Not for the first time in the CU courses, we found last year that life had conspired to dramatise the matters under review, and that a real-life crisis presented itself at the same moment as we arrived at consideration of the potential for conflict.

On the 5th of March 2013, the South African Democratic Teachers’ Union (SADTU) called for Minister of Education Motshekga’s resignation, and announced its intention “to mobilize all our members for an indefinite strike as a response to the assault on collective bargaining, our basic right as workers and to promote quality public education.”

On International Women’s Day (8th March 2013), at a special event in Katlehong, Ekurhuleni, SADTU launched a Campaign for Quality Public Education. This was a potentially revolutionary move by the organised educators in SADTU to redefine education qualitatively, so that it can respond to South Africa’s historical need for popular development, as opposed to the narrow school curriculum dictated by the bourgeois imperialist hegemony that has still not released its long-term grip on South Africa’s educational system.

In the latter respects, SADTU’s intentions are in keeping with the ANC’s January 8th Statement of 2013 (attached), which in turn reflects the transactions of the 53rd ANC National Conference that took place the previous month, in Mangaung. The January 8th Statement calls for major, integrated, educational initiatives. It also declared the Decade of the Cadre, and declared 2013 to be the year of unity-in-action towards socio-economic freedom.

Among the initiatives mentioned in the 2013 ANC January 8th Statement were these:

·        Internal education of ANC members, politically, generally and academically
·        Literacy and general education of the community led by the ANC at local level
·        Assistance by ANC-led volunteers to the formal-education schools in the localities.
·        Expansion of access to education, including to Further Education and Training (FET) Colleges
·        Commitment to the development of indigenous languages and to their use in schools

If it had proceeded nicely, the ANC’s programme was capable of growing into the kind of co-ordinated raising of political and general culture of the nation that we would want to see in the light of the first seven parts of this course on Education. But instead, within days, there was conflict between the Minister of Basic Education and the organised educators. There was a massive one-day protest against the Ministers’ threats, in April, in Pretoria, organised by SADTU. This checked the Minister but did not finish the conflict. SADTU called for the resignation of the Minister, and of the Director-General.

An SACP 2013 statement came out plainly in favour of education for liberation: People’s Education for People’s Power! SADTU took up the banner of Quality Public Education, showing willingness to lead, in a revolutionary way, in this field.

We will, this time, continue to use the same 2013 documents that were previously used in this part, but we will add the extensive section on education from the ANC’s 2014 national and provincial election manifesto, as a separate 4-page leaflet. We will attach, and make available by download, the following documents:

·        ANC January 8th 2013 Statement
·        A Compilation of SACP, SADTU and ANC statements from February and March 2013
·        Extracts on Education from the 2014 ANC National and Provincial Election Manifesto

The next item within this part of the course looks at several visions of how the development of education can be managed for “quality”, in the bourgeois sense, derived from the trading of commodities, of semi-static standards or grades; and also qualitatively, in the revolutionary sense of qualitative, as opposed to quantitative, change.