In many ways than not, the death of Mr Peter Thobejane, on 12 July 2019 through the hand of an evil and wicked gunman, marks the end of an era of the “third generation” teachers many of whom were trained in the 1980`s through the then colleges of education which were closed after 1990 through the reconfiguration of the higher education landscape by the late Prof. Kader Asmal in his capacity as a Minister of Education.
The new three-year Secondary Teachers Diploma (which required a matric as an entrance pre-requisite) was introduced in 1983 to replace the previous two years teaching qualifications which only required a Junior Certificate (JC) or Grade 10 for enrolment into the program.
Many of the “second generation” teachers who practiced teaching through the Primary Teaching Certificate (PTC) were, besides their JC, some of the best teachers the black communities had ever produced, despite the socio-political environment they faced after the introduction of the Bantu Education system after the rise to power of the National Party after the 1948 ‘general elections’.
The first-generation teachers were those who practiced the profession before and during the early years of the Apartheid system. Most of the first-generation teachers were trained by the missionaries and attended and completed their schooling at some of the best missionary schools the country had to offer.
Untainted by the toxic curriculum of the Bantu Education system, these first-generation teachers could compete with the best of their peers in the world. And it is with thanks to this exceptional first-generation of teachers, that the “third-generation” were grounded through the teaching acumen of the second-generation teachers.
If you attended schooling during the 1960`s to the 1980`s at Lefofa Lower Primary School or Itireleng Senior Primary School, or Hans Kekana High School or Ratshepo High School (or any other black school elsewhere in the country), you would have been fortunate to receive some of the best education offered by the crop of “old-school” second generation teachers like Principal Dammie (now 94 years), or the late Principal Monnakgotla, or my Grade 12 English Teacher “Mr Brown” (MHSRP) and many other great teachers who considered the teaching profession as a calling rather than a job.
Not only were these teachers exceptionally good with their subject matter, but they also provided “structure” in how the schools were run and managed. They produced learners (and future teachers) who appreciated the need to instil discipline (aided my corporal punishment) in the classroom and the school yards. They produced a rare breed of alumni`s with impeccable character through a stringent and structured Outside the Classroom Curriculum (OCC) which instilled values and morals to the learners that they produced.
Unlike today, the school grounds were buzzing with extra-curricular activities between 2pm and 5pm, with each teacher responsible for either sports, arts and culture, manual work (gardening, cooking, knitting) or sharpening their English proficiency through the Debate Society, whilst the school choir was belting their melodic voices under the baton of many choir-masters like Messrs. Mbuli, Rakhumakoe, Ntobong and many others in the school hall.
And so, it was out of the hands of the second-generation “old school” teachers that the likes of Peter Thobejane and many others were produced and had the exceptional honour and privilege to undergo rigorous training at Tlhabane College of Education and many other teaching centres in Bophuthatswana and many others throughout the country.
And as we pay homage to Peter Thobejane, one can say without fear of contradiction that, it is this crop of “third-generation” educators who are the backbone of the basic education system as we know it today. Despite all the challenges that the schools and communities are experiencing today, without these teachers, the education system post-1994 would have totally collapsed.
Unfortunately, most of them. Like Peter Thobejane are either retired or dead, or in their last ten years of teaching before their retirement.
After the closure of the specialized Colleges of Education by the then Minister of Education Prof. Kader Asmal, the training of the fourth-generation of teachers has coincided with the gradual decline of the professional integrity and stature of the teachers or educators.
Most of them are either trained through UNISA (it’s like producing a medical doctor through distance education or “correspondence) and are not exposed to the “structure and professional rigour” of the teaching profession. Funded by the Funda Lushaka NSFAS financial aid program most of them are trained through black universities where there`s no structure of values and discipline that is required of an ideal teacher.
What type of a quality teacher who can guide learners can we expect from a teacher-graduate from TUT Soshanguve North Campus where students are more out of class than in class with unrests after unrests, and a lifestyle of drinking and debauchery?
What type of teachers can we expect from the Walter Sisulu University Zamukulunga Campus where there`s no “rule of law” where students are stabbing each other to death almost every weekend without institutional recourse and justice?
And yet we expect our learners to be disciplined when the modern, fourth-generation (born-free) crop of teachers are not well grounded with the requisite values and morals expected of an ideal teacher or educator? Just visit any black school weekdays between 2pm and 5pm, the most crucial time when parents are still at work, and learners are unattended to, and see the emptiness of the school grounds.
Visit the ex-model C or private schools during the same time, and witness the hive of extra-curricular activities driven by teachers and volunteer parents.
Indeed, the death of Peter Thobejane marks the end of an era, when we lose the last teachers standing. A crop of what I call the “last generation of teachers”, who were brought up by well-structured families and communities where teachers worked with parents and community towards the shaping of learners for the future. A time when it truly took the collective efforts of the village, to raise a black child.
And as we inter your remains to your resting place on Saturday 20 July 2019 at the Mashimong Cemetery in Majaneng Village, the teaching fraternity should honour you for being part of our “third generation” teacher: for your selfless contribution to this noble profession and for the many black kids who benefitted under your tutelage. May your soul rest in eternal peace. You will be greatly missed by your family friends, your colleagues and the community.
In Memory of Peter Thobejane (1964-2019)