SADTU June Youth Day statement

16 June 2015

On Youth Day 2015, the South African Democratic Teachers Union (SADTU) salutes the fearless youth who, on this day, in 1976 took to the streets of Soweto to fight against the imposition of Afrikaans as the medium of instruction as well as for free, equal and quality education. They fully understood the importance of quality education for their emancipation and were prepared to stand for their right in the face of death, arrests and detentions. Their gallant efforts paved the way for the freedom and democracy we so enjoy today.

As 2015 marks the 39th anniversary of the historic uprisings, they year also celebrates the 60th anniversary of the Freedom Charter.

This historic ANC document states that the aim of education shall be to teach the youth to love their people and their culture, to honour human brotherhood liberty and peace. It further proclaims that education shall be free, compulsory, universal and equal for all children. Higher education and technical training shall be opened to all by means of state allowances and scholarships awarded on the basis of merit and the colour bar in cultural life, in sport and in education shall be abolished.

Education is a public good and should be cherished and protected at all costs. Education should be used to promote democracy, social cohesion and equality.  One of the major challenges that face education globally and in South Africa is its privatisation and commercialisation. We are seeing an increase in the number of private schools in South Africa such as the Curro schools. These schools care less about promoting democracy, social cohesion and equality but want to take us back to the old-apartheid system that thrived on racism. We call for free, equal and quality public education system which rang in 1976, still resonates today. 

We see our education being used to strengthen trade agreements. The introduction of Mandarin is one example.

SADTU was disappointed with the pronouncement on the introduction of Mandarin as a subject with clear timeframes and specified grades when we are slow in the development of our own languages. The reason for introducing Mandarin in our schools totally contradicts what the Chinese did to develop China.

The cultural revolution of China was based on the Chinese language as a driver for unity and social cohesion. The Chinese have managed to do away with Western domination because they understood that culture is important in the development of the nation. We view the introduction of Mandarin as a form of colonization by China in exchange for the electronic gadgets for schools. No international trade must undermine our culture. Our language is our heritage and cannot form part of WTO or any international trade agreements.

We welcome the efforts by government to ensure access to education by introduction of no-fee schools and school nutrition programmes. This has ensured that more than 97 % of children attend public schools. However, it is sad to note that only half of the learners who enter the system in Grade 1, reach Grade 12.
Although effort is made to improve our education system, inequalities still exist. Our youth in the townships and rural areas still face difficult conditions where they are forced to attend classes in dilapidated buildings, overcrowded classrooms with insufficient teaching and learning materials, fewer libraries and laboratories.

We also congratulate those who are making differences in their lives through opportunities they have acquired through government’s progressive policies such as the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) for students in higher education.

The socio-economic conditions the youth face in this country are terrible.  The youth are faced with high levels of unemployment, drug abuse, the scourge of HIV and AIDS and little faith in the education system to eradicate poverty.  The unemployment rate among the youth, more especially African and Coloured youth, is high. According to Stats SA, the unemployment rates for the African youth were 39.4% in 2014 while for the Coloured youth, 35.3%. The chances of employment for these youth are lower as the growth in skills is much lower than in the other population groups.

We need quality education system so that our youth can acquire skills that will ensure they are employable and can instil entrepreneurship so that they can create their own employment.

We therefore welcome the National Youth Policy 2020 whose targets for education and skills include among other; that more than 50% of Grade 12 learners achieve 50% or more in Mathematics and Physical Science, increase enrolments in Technical and Vocational Education and Training Colleges

SADTU, on this historic occasion, wish to urge the youth to emulate the class of 1976 by becoming agents of change and champions of their destiny. It is important for them in these difficult times not to lose sight towards quality public education. Education is a liberator.


ISSUED BY: SADTU Secretariat