SADTU statement on the State of the Nation Address by newly elected President Cyril Ramaphosa

18 February 2018

The South African Democratic Teachers Union (SADTU) heeds the call made by the newly elected president of South Africa, Cyril Ramaphosa, during his maiden State of the Nation speech yesterday for all to serve and lend a hand in building this country.

Using the late Bra Hugh Masekela's song, Thuma mina (Send me), President Ramaphosa made the call and declared his willingness to be "sent" to serve the country.

His humble yet profound speech has brought a mood of hope in South Africa as it seeks to address head on the challenges like unemployment and corruption facing the country. We support the call by the president to end corruption for both the public and private sector.

We welcome the fact that President Ramaphosa has placed job creation at the centre of our national agenda for 2018, especially for the youth.

We are looking forward to the Jobs Summit to look at what the country needs to do to ensure that our economy grows and the establishment of the Youth Working Group that will enable the youth to articulate their views and engage with government at the highest level. This will ensure that the country's policies and programmes advance the interests of the youth. We hope this will go a long way towards addressing the high levels of youth unemployment.

We are looking forward to the implementation of the National Minimum Wage on 1st May 2018 and call on business to play their role in building this country by complying with the Nation Minimum Wage which is a step towards reducing wage inequality while maintaining economic growth and employment creation.

On education:

The President's speech has brought much needed clarity on free higher education for the poor and the working class. We urge the youth to make use of this opportunity and make full use of their right to education. However, we lament the fact that this clarity has come at a time when most institutions have already started their academic year.

On the same note, the President's speech was silent on the issue of students of parents who are the "missing middle" like teachers, nurses and police officers who are regarded as too rich to receive these subsidies but are too poor to afford to pay for their children in tertiary institutions.

We welcome the news that the Funza Lushaka Bursary programme will award 39 500 bursaries for initial teacher education over the next three years. However, we would like to caution that government should ensure that they provide employment to these teachers once they finish their studies. At the present moment, we have thousands of Funza Lushaka Bursary recipients who are unemployed because government has frozen most of the posts.

The issue of development of teachers and reopening of colleges of education is something we should continue to ponder on as education remains our apex priority.

The President should follow up on the professionalization of early childhood practitioners and deployment of more resources to ECD. A firm early childhood development remains a guarantee for the progress of our learners as opposed to reaction through extra classes and winter schools at matric.

On the work of Public Servants

We echo the president's call on public servants to become agents of change. This is in line with SADTU's 2014 Congress theme which calls on the Union to restore the character of SADTU as a "Union of Revolutionary Professionals, Agents for Change and Champions of People's Education." The President is welcome to visit national departments of Government to engage with senior leadership to ensure that work of government is effectively aligned. However, we would like him to also visit provincial departments to see how austerity measures are making it impossible for public servants to work effectively.

The president should visit schools with overcrowded classes of up to 100 learners in the townships and rural areas. The president should visit hospitals and clinics with no medicine and police stations that are under staffed and with no resources to do their work.

On the promotion of our indigenous languages

We welcome the call by the president on the promotion of our indigenous languages at all our public schools. This call should be supported by the provision of more language teachers. We need teachers with the necessary competency and proficiency to teach our languages. Our languages should be developed to a point of being languages of instruction. Afrikaans and English first language speakers continue to be advantaged as this is the medium of instruction and is their mother tongue.

On NHI

From the President's speech, one can see that the National Health Insurance (NHI) will soon become a reality. We welcome the announcement that the NHI Bill is now ready to be processed and will be submitted to Parliament in the next few weeks and certain NHI projects targeting the most vulnerable people in society will commence in April this year. Health care and education are not commodities for profit making.

We welcome the idea of reducing the over bloated cabinet and support the president to remove the dead wood in the current cabinet as a matter of urgency.

We commit ourselves to supporting the President by calling on our members to lend a hand to serve the nation by performing their revolutionary task of educating our children and the nation.

ISSUED BY: SADTU Secretariat

CONTACT:

General Secretary, Mugwena Maluleke; 082 783 2968
Deputy General Secretary, Nkosana Dolopi; 082 709 5651
Nomusa Cembi, Nomusa Cembi; 082 719 5157