According to South African learners, the top problems facing schools were a lack of textbooks, overcrowded classes and incompetent teachers. 4064 learners, aged between 13 and 24, were interviewed across South Africa, and asked about their perceptions regarding the problems facing schools, and the attitude of teachers. 27% said the biggest problem facing South African schools was a shortage of textbooks. 22% said it was too many learners in a class, and 17% identified teachers who were not doing their job properly as the most significant problem.The perception of the biggest problem in schools differed across racial groups. For young black learners, the most significant problem was a lack of textbooks, with 28% saying that textbook delivery was their biggest concern. In contrast, white, coloured and Indian learners felt overcrowded classrooms were the most significant problem. 28% of both white and coloured learners, and 25% of Indians, said too many learners to a class was the most pressing issue for schools.
When asked about teachers, learners saw them as being caring, but also lazy, and believed this was affecting learning standards. 63% of learners thought most teachers did care about the young people they taught. In comparison, one in three (34%) believed very few teachers actually cared about their pupils. Notwithstanding this finding, 67% of learners felt that too many teachers were lazy and that this was having an impact on learning. In comparison.
Learners in Gauteng and Limpopo were the most likely to believe that the majority of teachers did not care about their pupils. In Gauteng, 2 in 5 respondents (40%) said very few teachers showed an interest in learners. In Limpopo, 37% felt this way. The most positive reaction was obtained from respondents in the Western Cape, with 23% of learners feeling that only a few of their teachers really cared about their pupils.
The survey also polled learners’ opinions on whether teachers should be allowed to go on strike. Learners were sympathetic towards teachers in this regard, with almost two thirds (63%) supporting their right to strike. In comparison, 33% thought teachers had a responsibility towards their pupils, and should not be allowed to strike.
Young black learners were more likely to feel that teachers had the right to strike than other race groups. 65% of blacks supported the right of teachers to strike, compared to 55% of coloureds, 50% of whites and 43% of Indians.
Shirley Wakefield, spokesperson for Pondering Panda said, “It’s obvious that what learners want most is a good education. Without textbooks, and with overcrowded classrooms, they feel they aren’t getting this. Teachers who are lazy are exacerbating the problem, as they are not delivering the standard of education young people deserve.” Wakefield went on to add, “What is encouraging is that almost 2 in 3 learners believe most teachers care about their pupils. However, the fact that a third don’t see teachers as caring shows that many South African learners are still missing out on an engaging, inspiring education.”
All interviews were carried out on cellphones between the 7th and 13th of March, across South Africa. Responses were weighted to be nationally representative in terms of age, gender and race.