The depiction of people of the article is one in which there is a profound sense of helplessness to the bureaucratic machine that is politics in education. The students are shown to be in a challenging condition because they have failed and are being moved on to another grade level. The opening description of Minya, doing her best to pay attention in a Grade 12 class when she failed her Grade 11 class is representative of this. Additionally, Minya's attentiveness is undercut by the veteran teacher, who feels that students like Minya are not going to be successful in an even more rigorous setting: “The ones we promoted here are not coping. We are trying very hard with them but I don’t think they are going to make it.”
The depiction of people in the article as being challenged and feeling helpless to a great extent is established in the opening description of the row as the result of politics. The article describes the row as having caused "a tug-of-war between Education Minister Naledi Pandor and the Eastern Cape education department." The article details how individual provinces were left to address an issue that required national resources and federal support: “We operate as if we are a federal state, let each province decide what to do as if we don’t have a national ministry to co-ordinate policy." The article depicts individuals as being fundamentally challenged by the lack of coordination between federal initiatives such as the extension of the new national curriculum and provincial implementation to prepare for such a seismic change. Leadership on a political level is not being provided, as indicated in the article. The article does not depict anyone in the position of leadership as helping individuals such as students or teachers in this predicament. The "row" is shown to be the result of this absence of leadership. Students and stakeholders are left in positions where they are challenged by this political reality. The article depicts people as waiting for political leadership, but having to address the reality of its absence.