Portraits of Labour: Teachers' Work in Situations of Inequality

Tuesday, 17 July 2018
Distributed Paper
Nyna AMIN, University of Kwazulu Natal, South Africa
Public schools in South Africa are financed by the state with more funding allocated to historically underprivileged schools than those institutions which benefitted under apartheid. Unequal funding has not narrowed the gap between the haves and the have-nots as poorer schools cannot rely on parents to subsidize the employment of professionals to deal with the severe psychological, emotional, sociocultural, health and cognitive support that children require. The predicaments teachers' face are related to issues of work including growing dissatisfaction with work conditions ( heavy workloads and low salaries), and the growing attempts by the state to control teacher work in the wake of globalization.

Three questions framed the inquiry: I) What work do teachers' do? ii) How do teachers' perform their work? ii) What is the nature of teachers'work?

Two hundred teachers volunteered their participation in the study. Each teacher was shadowed for a day, followed by a semi- structured interview. Interviews were carefully transcribed and given back to participants for validation.

The findings revealed that the core work of teaching was displaced by emotional, social and psychological care work. The work was time- consuming, record-driven and assessment heavy. Teaching was interrupted by disruptions, disturbances and intrusions of various kinds. More time was spent on dealing with discipline and delinquency than on teaching.

The participants who worked in underprivileged schools took on the work that psychologists, social workers, school nurses and career and guidance counsellors should have done. The material conditions of the schools were debilitating for teachers. The work was intense, overwhelming, emotionally-charged and context- dependent.

It was apparent that attempts to undo the injustices of the past were paradoxical in nature.inequalities were intensified in poor schools and working there was unbearable for many teachers.