The role of the media in teacher rationalisation and redeployment in KwaZulu-Natal.
After centuries of oppression, the majority of South Africans were anxious to experience the democratic values of justice, equality, liberty, democracy and peace that were embedded in the 1994 constitution. In order to redress the inequities and imbalances of the apartheid era., former National Education Minister, Professor Sibusiso Bengu declared the Revised Norms and Standards for teacher education as national policy shortly after the Government of National Unity took office in 1994. New political dispensations in response to the pronouncement of the White Paper in 1995 meant that the National Ministry of Education faced insurmountable challenges of transforming education and training. The teacher Rationalisation and Redeployment (R&R) policy was formulated to address issues of inequities and imbalances that have riddled the pre-democratic South African Education system. The rationalisation and redeployment process was intended to facilitate the transformation of education and training under a single Department of Education (DoE). The Department had to ensure that all schools, especially the rural schools that were previously disadvantaged under the apartheid regime had an adequate supply of qualified teachers. It must be noted that the rural communities have suffered the most, and still suffer the consequences of the oppressive ideologies that were embedded in education polices during the apartheid era. An implementation of the rationalisation and redeployment policy meant that schools that were operating over the teacher / pupil ratio of 1: 38 in secondary schools and 1: 40 in primary schools had to be rationaJised and the 'excess' teachers had to be redeployed to previously disadvantaged schools that needed their services. A successful implementation of the R&R policy objectives would have translated into redressing the imbalances and inequities of South African education under the apartheid regime. I argue in this study that the media played a dual role of 'moulder' and 'mirror' in representing the R&R phenomenon in KwaZulu-Natal. How did the media manage to do this? The media basically rooted itself either within the consensus paradigm or the conflict paradigm. Within the consensus paradigm, the media played the role of moulder of mass perception in which dominant ideologies that support the status quo is reflected. Within this paradigm, public discourse is hindered because of the deliberate use of top-down, non-interactive language. By this I mean, that the media does not promote discourse at grassroots level. However, when the media chose to root itself within the conflict paradigm, it played the role of 'mirror' in representing significant events as the rationalisation and redeployment process unfolded itself. Within the conflict paradigm, the critical and reflexive voice of the 'man in the street' is heard and public discourse is promoted. This study explores how four local media products, The Daily News, Mercury, Natal Witness and Post represented the rationalisation and redeployment phenomenon in KZN for the period November 1998 - March 1999. This is a qualitative study, which has also eclectically drawn on quantitative data. Data relating to the intentions of the R&R policy was obtained and analysed from The National Teachers Audit (1995), and the Education Policy Unit (EPU), March 1997 review. The data relating to the objectives and implementation procedures of the R&R policy was obtained and analysed from the original Rationalisation and Redeployment document, HRM 51/98. The sample of the media products was selected on race representavity in KZN. The statistical data was obtained and analysed from the AMPS 2000A. The representative texts were obtained and analysed from the Independent Newspapers Microfish. These documents provided me with in-depth data to examine and triangulate the R&R phenomenon from multi-dimensional perspectives. The data was subject to firstly, a linguistic level of analysis, in which the meanings of the, words, the sentence construction and the signs signalling hidden agendas, silences and gaps were used as tools to deconstruct the media texts. Secondly, the data was subject to a representational level of analysis where I examined the position of the media as communicator of messages or facilitator of discourse. If the media used interactive language, (language that promoted discourse between various role-players) then the media was identified to adopt the conflict paradigm, where it positioned itself as facilitator and fuelled the battle-lines between the various interest groups. If the media used non-interactive language,( language that did not encourage discourse from grassroots) then the media was identified to adopt the consensus paradigm, where it positioned itself as communicator of ruling class ideology. Furthermore it would use words such as 'we' and 'all' to communicate consensus at policymakers level. Significant findings of this research indicate that during the period before implementation November 1998 to January 1999, the print media foregrounded the objectives of rationalisation and redeployment within the consensus paradigm. Furthermore, the issues of control, democracy, equity, from unions perspective were represented in non-interactive language within the consensus paradigm. Moreover, the objective of transformation was represented in non-interactive language Within the consensus paradigm. For the period during implementation, the objectives of redeployment, which are transformation and equity were represented in non-interactive language within the consensus paradigm. The issues of teacher pupil ratio, women and retrenchments were represented within the conflict paradigm. Issues of resistance to implementation, misinterpretation of official circulars were represented within the conflict paradigm. While the objectives of rationalisation were reinforced, the issues of chaos, challenging authority, social action and resignations were represented within the conflict paradigm. The issue of post provisioning norms formula being miscalculated to bring in 'retrenchments through the back door' was highlighted, while the major issue of unions was represented within the conflict paradigm. The overall findings from the four media products, The Daily News, Natal Mercury, Natal Witness and Post indicated that while the Daily News and Mercury initially attempted to coerce the readership to accept the noble objectives of the R&R policy, both these newspapers shifted their paradigm from consensus to conflict when they realised that this policy was met with tremendous resistance because it was almost not pragmatic. However, the Natal Witness and Post came across as being anti policy from the outset and rooted itself it the conflict paradigm. In doing so, it fanned the flames of tension and conflict between the various role-players and celebrated victim-hood. The overall conclusion of this study is that it is located within two influential theoretical media paradigms namely, the Structural-Functionalism Consensus Paradigm and the Political-Economic Conflict Paradigm, as explicated by Hiebert et al (1991: 36), that the main choices of 'theories of media and society are between conflict and consensus', where the media is portrayed either as 'moulder' or 'mirror' of society. This study concurs with the above media theories because the discourses emanating from the four local media products could easily be identified within the consensus paradigm or conflict paradigm. This research indicates that the discourses were controversial, conflicting, volatile and bias in their representation as the recent media studies conducted by the Glasgow and the Birmingham research indicates, as quoted by Fowler (1994: 10), that 'all news is biased'. Nevertheless, as a witness to the rationalisation and redeployment phenomenon in KZN for the period November 1998- March 1999, I partially disagree with the Newsom Report (1963) 'that media texts do not replicate or mirror reality', because the media did present itself as the voice of the voiceless during the period of implementation of the R&R policy. Finally, the media texts were not about the truth value of their assertions, but how the media forged relationships between the various role-players and framed each one in relation to the other, creating an atmosphere of tension and conflict, promoting the discourse, and thereby fuelling the battle-lines between the role-players.