SADTU welcomes back all members and teachers to the 2014 school year. The year begins on a positive note following the resounding 78,2% 2013 Matric pass – the best in 10 years.  The country owes the good result to you as teachers. Many of you teach in poorly resourced schools where you sometimes have to dig from your own pockets in order to find resources to teach. As the Union strives to contribute towards the delivery of quality public education, we call on teachers to dedicate themselves to their work and continue to support and advance our mission.

“We would like to encourage our members and teachers to continue and promote a workaholic schooling environment and deliver quality education,” SADTU General Secretary Mugwena Maluleke said.
We also welcome the learners and promise to do our part according to the Quality Learning and Teaching Campaign (QLTC) to be in school, on time and prepared. We hope that the learners, parents and communities also keep to their side of the (QLTC) bargain.

We would further like to tell our members that they should not be discouraged by the publicity stunt in relation to the matric results pulled by the Premier of the Western Cape Helen Zille, her suggestion of an audit on the 2013 matric results is mischievous in the extreme. As far as we are concerned this is a bitter individual who is battling to accept that the province under her administration is ranked lower than three others. It is clear that her call is made in bad faith and seeks to undermine the hard work that has been put in by teachers from other provinces.

In our view, there are clear racist undertones from the Premier’s suggestion, one does not need any Psychology academic back ground to see that this is an individual who sufferers from a severe case of a superiority complex. As far as she is concerned, black people are destined to fail and remain unskilled laboures, this was a view that was also held by HF Verwoerd and was expressed in one of his most famous speeches in 1953 on Bantu Education. It cannot be acceptable that when other provinces not governed by the DA do well in matric exams, conveniently a call for an audit is made whereas during the period in which the Western Cape was leading no call for such was made yet the same system was used.

As we start the year and gear ourselves to focus on educating our nation, we want to send a very strong message to all the prophets of doom and chronic “nay sayers” like the so-called education expert Lesiba Tefo that we will not accept their insults directed at organized labour within the system. In our view, it is misleading to refer to him as an “expert”.  If he was one then certainly his views would have been more comprehensive and balanced instead of mere anti-worker rhetoric.

Tefo is calling for unions to be banned clearly being oblivious of the contextual factors affecting education.

He is failing dismally to understand that unions are not the problem but part of the solution, he is not willing to accept that the problems in the system are holistic, for instance a majority of our teachers have to sweep their own classrooms as professionals, they have to enforce traffic by laws and help learners cross dangerous roads. Most teachers have to play multiple roles in a school setting as they also have to be, administrators, psychologists, social workers, nurses and this is to mention just a few elements.

We also know that our schools are increasingly becoming hazardous places for both learners and teachers due to crime. This is the reason why in our National General Council last year, we called for more focus on crime and bullying in our schools. We declared that violence against teachers should be put to an end without any delay.  We also called for the creation of a national registry to be used to track these incidents under the auspices of the Education Labour Relations Council (ELRC). Let us mention that   we want to see the ELRC taking its leading role as a chamber to improve the conditions of service for educators and will strive for that during the course of this year.

Tefo clearly has a very limited understanding of the role of unions and surely a simple Google search would have been of great assistance to his course. Our national discourse would have been assisted had he at the very least advanced some educationally sound arguments for the banning of unions.

In our view he is just an ill informed union basher. Unions exist to ensure labour peace. They are one of the most effective and practical mechanisms to create collective bargaining platforms between employees and employers. In the basic education space for instance, unions have been central in advancing teacher development initiatives among other interventions. What this tells you is that we are part of the solution and want to insist that we will not give the likes of Tefo any space to insult and demoralize us. Freedom of association is a right that we fought for and will defend.

The National General Council of 2013 made it clear that this is the year of action and that needs to manifest through tangible results. Among others we will intensify our call for consolidated teacher development interventions, we want to see firm progress in this regard and will not rest until such happens, we insist that teacher development cannot be relegated to a mere expression on paper but must be treated with the urgency it deserves.

On our part, we have come up with our own programmes through the Curtis Nkondo Professional Development Institute. We see ourselves as part of the solution and are more than prepared to get our hands dirty and put in the required hard work to improve our members. Collaborating with the DBE under the Teacher Union Collaboration we have been able to implement quality training programmes. We commit ourselves to continue doing more to improve the competencies of the teachers. Our Union will ensure that programmes that provide a balance between pedagogy and subject content knowledge.

We will push vigorously and engage all stake holders involved to ensure that the work of the Presidential Task Team on Teachers Salaries is finalized as a matter of urgency. The quality of public education is directly proportional to our conditions of service as teachers and must thus be prioritized if we are to produce the desired outcomes and move forward as a country.

This is the year in which we will up the ante on our call for the permanent appointment of all teachers, we will not accept a situation in which post provisioning fails to dent the unfavorable learner/teacher ratio that we are exposed to. Every class must be attended to by a teacher and the ratio must be acceptable and promote an optimal teaching and learning environment. The Peter Morkel Model must be reviewed in line with the ANC Mangaung Conference resolution.

Equally, we will prioritize the conditions of service of Adult Education and Training (AET) and Early Childhood Development (ECD). Whilst we welcome the fact that the ruling ANC intends to integrate the critical ECD phase into the main stream schooling system, we will on our part ensure that the conditions of service of the concerned practitioners speak to the intent and are drastically improved. The area of Early Childhood Education demands that those employed in the sector must have multi-skills because pre-school must provide learners with opportunities to grow, develop and explore. The teachers must thus have the required social service and health qualifications.

We want to call upon all our members to make 2014 the year of action. We will continue to honour Madiba, defend the unity of COSATU, service our members and rally behind the ANC election victory.

ISSUED BY: SADTU Secretariat