The South African Democratic Teachers’ Union (SADTU), the largest union in the education and public service sector, is calling for more proactive measures from government towards curbing the spread of Coronavirus. The issue is one of many matters discussed at the Union’s National Executive Committee (NEC) on 6 and 7 March at Kopanong Hotel and Conference Centre in Benoni, Johannesburg.
The NEC is the highest decision making body of the Union in-between national congresses and national general councils. It brings together the National Officers Bearers, Provincial Chairpersons and Secretaries.
Looking at the severity of the Coronavirus, the NEC raised concern that no steps have been taken to educate the school communities about the virus in order to empower teachers and learners. No attempts have been made to ensure that workplaces comply with labour standards in order to mitigate against the spread of the virus.
The NEC resolved to engage the Department of Education to develop learning materials to empower both the learners and teachers about the Coronavirus. The materials should include the toolkits published by the World Health Organisation (WHO). The NEC however advised that basic hands hygiene be adopted by all workers and learners/students as part of preventive measures whilst learning materials are being developed.
The NEC strongly condemned doctors and those in the medical fraternity who were seeking to make profit out of this crisis by charging exorbitant prices to those who came forward to test on whether they were infected or not by the virus.
State of the economy:
The NEC which met two weeks after the delivery of the country’s budget speech by Minister of Finance, Tito Mboweni looked at both the positives and negatives of the budget. The NEC acknowledged the state of the economy and the fact that the country was in a technical recession; it however, condemned the reduced allocation for social spending and government’s plan to cut the public service wage bill.
The NEC resolved to call a special NEC meeting to thrash out the Union’s way forward to government’s intention on the wage bill.
Collective Agreement 1 of 2018
The NEC rejected the proposal by Government to renege from the full implementation of the last lap of the wage increase on 01 April 2020. The NEC clearly stated that it was not prepared to compromise on this but was prepared to engage the employer on the next round of negotiations and other alternatives aimed at saving jobs in the public service. The Union shall embark on report back meetings to members and to allay fears about their jobs and wages. The Union will also begin the process of consultations for the next round of negotiations.
COSATU ESKOM proposal.
As an affiliate of COSATU, the SADTU NEC deliberated on the proposal to invest in Eskom and blamed the media for publicising the proposal before it was taken to affiliates.
It also accused the media of misrepresenting the Eskom proposal by calling it a bail-out. Like all proposals, it must be debated and workers be consulted so that the best solution can be found that will benefit everyone. The NEC however raised the fact that the workers and poor communities do not want Eskom to collapse, which could serve as the shortest and quickest route to the privatization of Eskom, increase of the price of electricity and to massive retrenchments.
The NEC hit out at the DA who are trying to be an “instant representative” of workers on the issue that is trying to save the country’s power, economy and jobs. The DA had always wanted ESKOM to be privatized so that its founders, which is the capitalist elite, can make profit out of a basic service such as electricity. The video by the DA is about electioneering and opportunistic. Workers must remain vigilant because disaster capitalism thrives on a crisis. To the DA, the ESKOM crisis is an opportunity to move with speed to sell government assets clearly using the frustrations of the people. The DA has never called for the executive directors and non-executive directors of Steinhoff to be apprehended for destroying the pen of the workers because the destruction was good for disaster capitalism and the DA is the representative of the capitalist elite in this country.
The COSATU proposal is based upon a social compact of government, business, labour and community. Each social partner must contribute, compromise and sacrifice for the broader public good. The NEC resolved to prioritize the consultations with all members on the proposal.
On Education matters:
The NEC meeting was the first to take place in 2020, it therefore reflected on the 2019 Matric results. It welcomed the improved results but reiterated the Union’s call to stop obsessing about Matric results but to look closely at improving foundation phases. The qualitative and quantitative decline in subjects such as pure mathematics and accounting could be arrested through strengthening the Early Childhood Development and Foundation phases.
The NEC further called on the media to desist from making the results a contest among provinces as the country has one basic education system whose intention is to support the country’s developmental goals. The uneven performance between provinces was a reflection of the country’s socio economic realities.
The results again confirmed the Union’s strong view that the so-called equitable share formula for education funding has not been able to deal with the stubbornness of the apartheid legacy in terms of infrastructure and resources in the rural provinces. The NEC called for the individual school needs to be the basis for budgeting. If this is not done sooner, the public education system will soon be a fertile ground for agents and allies of capitalism with their crusade of accumulation by dispossession.
The NEC noted the introduction of KiSwahili as one of the 17 optional foreign languages to be availed in the curriculum. With the language being the most widely spoken in Africa, the NEC believed in was a step in the right direction and was in line with the Union’s decolonisation of education agenda.
Whilst the NEC welcomed this development, it again called on the Department of Basic Education and the Department of Higher Education and Training to double their efforts to prioritise and promote South Africa’s indigenous languages that form part of the 11 official languages.
The Union’s Institute, the Curtis Nkondo Professional Development Institute (SCNPDI) has through the Teacher Union Collaboration (TUC) initiative and in collaboration with the Department of Basic Education (DBE), trained 1 800 teachers in the Primary School Reading Improvement Programme (PSRIP) – 600 in Limpopo, 600 in KwaZulu Natal and 600 in the Eastern Cape
SADTU 30th anniversary
Launched on 6 October 1990 in Johannesburg, SADTU is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. Provincial celebrations began in the Northern Cape in February; these will take place in all the provinces and culminate in a national celebration in a form of a Choral Festival to be held in Durban in October. One major activity marking the 30th anniversary is the Union’s “I am A School Fan” campaign which is aimed at mobilising stakeholders in education, more especially communities to play a positive role in the fight against the scourge of violence in schools. The North West Province will host her 30th anniversary activity on Saturday, 14 March in Vryburg.
ISSUED BY: SADTU Secretariat
General Secretary, Mugwena Maluleke: 082 783 2968
Deputy General Secretary, Nkosana Dolopi: 082 709 5651
Media Officer, Nomusa Cembi: 082 719 5157