16 June 2016
The South African Democratic Teachers` Union (SADTU) salutes the youth of Soweto whose gallant actions on this day (16 June), 40 years ago, brought about a turning point to the history of this country.
Clad in their school uniforms; with only their sheer numbers, unity of purpose and determination as their shield, these Soweto students took to the streets to protest the use of Afrikaans as a language of instruction in the face of arrests, torture and death. Their actions reverberated throughout the country and drew in all sectors of society.
Their call was not simply about the language but for quality education and an end to the apartheid regime. The "Class of 76" fully understood the importance of education as a liberator and a gateway to a better life.
As we celebrate, we note the many policies that have been enacted to ensure that right to education in South Africa is realised. The doors of learning have been opened through, among others, no-fee schools, school nutrition programmes and scholar transport. However, many challenges still prevail, as the quality has not im-proved for the African Working Class child.
Access to quality education is, for an African Working Class child, still compromised as they are subjected to overcrowded classroom conditions that are caused by Post Provisioning Norms that provide for teacher posts according to the number of class-rooms and not subjects or grades offered per school. This is happening despite a resolution taken at the Mangaung Conference of the African National Congress to review this right-wing Post-Provisioning model. This model is entrenched by a minister who has dedicated her entire life to fight against apartheid and the liberation struggle according the statement issued by the minister on the 10th June.
However, despite her credentials, his minister is forced by court orders to provide quality learning facilities to the working class schools. She sees nothing wrong when working class children are crammed in so called classroom to learn mandarin instead of implementing the African National Congress resolution on the indigenous languages.
The so called incremental implementation of African languages policy which the minister introduced is left to fail under her watch. It must be remembered that language is life and with it comes unity of purpose to defeat an ideology that oppresses the working class. Failure to invest in the African Languages in our schools serves the best interest of the DA which is fighting a class war against the working class.
The statement by the minister claims that the writers of the Ministerial Task Team report into the selling of post are "an independent team of respectable South Af-ricans". These respectable South Africans should have known that teachers are part of the School Governing Bodies and that taking away their powers is taking us back to the apartheid Verwoerd era who introduced state schools which took away the powers of parents in the education of their children and labour rights.
If the minister was still on course in reversing the apartheid and colonial mind-damaging policies she should have been aware that tempering with parental rights was a recipe for disaster and an insult to our ancestors who fought against Bantu education. Any attempt to take away powers from SGBs is counter revolutionary. It is against participatory democracy, a key part of the National Democratic Revolution. SGBs are Organs of People`s power and should be defended even by those who profess to have dedicated their lives to the struggle.
The minister would then not even question SADTU for raising this fundamental matter because teachers in school governing bodies are workers and parents at the same time. An ideological war being waged against unions is a class war against the working class. Advocating for the proliferation of trade unions in the education sector by categorizing the workers is not part of the Freedom Charter.
Clearly that is a DA neo-liberal agenda that the minister is captured to implement. Crushing the union because it is dominant is not the agenda of the African National Congress but that of the DA. How can a minister who has dedicated her entire life to fight against apartheid and the liberation struggle tell the country that six of the provinces are run by SADTU without any shred of evidence? How can the minister even regard those writers as respected South Africans when they say her party, the African National Congress together with Alliance partners are corrupt? Was that not diversion from the selling of posts to a political agenda?
The Union is not surprised Minister`s statement did not even mention in even in one line the words, `collective bargaining`. Ever since 2009 what the teachers got from this ministry has been insults and promises but nothing tangible.
What we have seen under her watch are resignations by teachers because they have been reduced to markers instead of teachers who must engage and challenge their learners in the curriculum.
Rote learning as entrenched in the testing regime has become the killer of our chil-dren and this is what the 1976 Class fought against. No African minister is liked by the DA and for our minister to be the darling of the DA we must be worried. The DA likes the minister because only African children die in the pit toilets. Only African children are packed in overcrowded halls called classrooms.
How can someone who has dedicated her life to the struggle stand by a watch as teachers struggle to make ends meet under her watch. She should be ashamed of herself living in opulence while teachers struggle to buy houses, pay for the educa-tion of their children. Is this what she fought for, to preside over sick teachers who are amongst the working poor as professionals? Ours, like the generation of 76 is the struggle for People`s Education for People`s Power.
Access to quality education continues to be compromised due to insufficient invest-ment in continuous professional teacher development and school infrastructure.
As we celebrate 40 years of that fateful day, we note the high levels of unemploy-ment, more especially among the youth. This is slowly eroding the faith that the youth of 76s had in education. We therefore call upon our government to help curb this situation by creating job opportunities, more especially for the youth.
We also note the increasing trend of using schools as a bargaining tool. It is unac-ceptable that the rights of children to learn is violated at will by those who want to protest in this day and age when the right to protest and demonstrated is guaranteed and protected. The burning of school infrastructure is not a solution. We call upon the law enforcement agencies to get to the bottom of this trend expose the real perpetrators. We cannot allow the gains that were made through the sacrifices of the Class of 76, to go in vain.
As a tribute to the Class of 76, we call upon the current generation to commemorate the lives of these heroes and heroines by fighting for what is right and noble. No matter the challenges they are facing, they should not turn to substance and drug abuse as a way to numb reality but should face them head on.
As SADTU we will fight to ensure that the story of the Class of 76 is known and ap-preciated by continuing to push for History to be a compulsory subject in our schools.Those who dedicated their lives to the struggle should have championed and implemented policies to make History compulsory instead of boasting about struggle credentials.
ISSUED BY: SADTU SECRETARIAT