Why SA schools must tackle systemic transformation issues, not the symptoms

Educator and author Roy Hellenberg says many schools only address symptoms of poor transformation when cases flare up from time to time.

This comes after claims that Rustenburg Girls' Junior School allegedly coerced its first ever black teacher, Nozipho Mthembu, to leave.

Hellenberg is the co-author of an insightful book called "A School where I Belong", written with educator Dylan Wray and academic Professor Jonathan Jansen.

He says systemic issues such as unchanged staffing need to be tackled at all South African schools.

WATCH: A guide on how to build truly transformed and inclusive SA schools

According to Hellenberg, the average age of teachers in South Africa is between 35 and 45.

This means that the majority of teachers grew up, were trained and taught in a divide educational system under apartheid.

He says there has been no training for senior teachers to transition from a mono-cultural environment to a multi-cultural one.

There needs to be a systematic retraining of teachers to engage with learners that come from diverse backgrounds, Hellenberg advises.

He stresses that the number of black staff or pupils at a school is not an accurate indicator of transformation, adding that social power is more important than ratios.

Hellenberg explains that many former model C schools still expect previously disadvantaged pupils to assimilate into the established school culture.

However, inclusion is not assimilation.

He discusses how to measure inclusivity and social cohesion in schools.

It's the schools that are struggling that only deal with symptoms when they flare up.

Roy Hellenberg, co-author of 'A School where I Belong'

They will continue to struggle because they are not dealing with the underlying issues.

Roy Hellenberg, co-author of 'A School where I Belong'

There are schools that are taking the process of transformation seriously... schools that are willing to do the hard work and the heart work.

Roy Hellenberg, co-author of 'A School where I Belong'

Listen to the discussion on The John Maytham Show:


This article first appeared on CapeTalk : Why SA schools must tackle systemic transformation issues, not the symptoms


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