Education is not declared an essential service

14 February 2013

SADTU welcomes the State of the Nation address by State President Jacob Zuma. The speech has met some but not all of the Union’s expectations. We welcome in particular the final explanation by the president that the government is not intending to declare education an essential service. This is important in a sector that is crying for dynamic leadership at the level of the department. We have always maintained that declaring education an essential service would be tantamount to treating the symptoms and not the root cause of the challenges. In our view, the DBE should rather focus on implementing existing policies and regulations consistently. The DBE`s focus should be on implementing existing progressive initiatives such as the QLTC which encourages all stake holders to play their part and take responsibility in improving the quality of education, this includes the department itself and all the technocrats from the national to circuit offices.

The president has created certainty and political clarity and his message on combating of corruption is welcomed by our union as we face a cult in the Department of Basic Education (DBE). In assisting the president in this war against corruption, we shall intensify our programme to push Basic Education Director General Bobby Soobrayan out. The second phase of our action will ensure that the principals and members of the teaching fraternity are not intimidated by the DBE when reporting and exposing inefficiencies and laxity in the Department. No principal will be charged for exercising his or her constitutional right to freedom of association especially when reporting non delivery of learning support materials. We call upon our principals to report to the union acts of intimidation so that we can show the DBE that we can`t tolerate decorated reports by hiding incapacity and incompetency of the discredited DG of education. The attitude, posture and orientation of senior bureaucrats in the DBE must change and the current cult must be eradicated if education is to be seen as a Public Good and essential for the development of our country.

We welcome the plans to improve Maths, Science and Technology which will involve the establishment of a national task term to strengthen the implementation of the Science, Maths and Technology Strategy. However, we feel this will require a new leadership at the level of DBE. It will require cadres who are orientated towards service delivery and not self enrichment. We feel government should put more resources in the training and development of teachers. The introduction of indigenous languages as a medium of teaching will help improve the pass rate of these subjects. We note that the that the President did not mention the introduction of indigenous languages as a medium of instruction as the ANC mentioned this in Mangaung.

We welcome the President`s assertion that collective bargaining needs strengthening and not weakening as demonstrated by the divisive and discredited Soobrayan. We will therefore work even harder inspired by the President`s vision to strengthen this dispute prevention strategy which we believe will help us to avoid the disruption of education.

We welcome the prioritisation of teachers` terms and conditions of employment through the establishment of the presidential remuneration commission.

We welcome the mention of Adult Basic Education and Training (ABET) and Early Childhood Development (ECD) especially Grade R. However, the President’s assertion lacked concrete plans to address unacceptable conditions of employment for these sectors.The future of our country relies on the ECD teachers to build a strong foundation. We would therefore urge the Government to ensure that all teachers in Grade R are appointed in the formal education sector with full terms and conditions of employment.

The President’s speech lacked plans to address the plight of temporary teachers in vacant substantive posts. We hope the Minister of Basic Education will provide the required leadership to have a teacher in front of each learner in our schools.

With regard to the collapsing school infrastructure in our rural provinces, we call upon the minister to attend to this urgently by utilizing the conditional grants on infrastructure. We welcome the President’s announcement that 98 new schools will be built by the end of March replacing mud schools, more than 40 are in the Eastern Cape.

We also welcome the September target date for the building of the two universities because it provides certainty and hope in the struggle for battle of ideas.

We support the reviewing of the mining tax with the intention to increase the governance revenue in addressing the triple challenge facing our country.

We will comment on the Bill on Gender Equality and Women Empowerment which is open for public comment. It is high time we saw gender equality in all spheres of power in government. The Union has already begun implementing the 50/50 gender equality policy as it is reflected in our National Executive Committee.

We further commit ourselves to unity in action as called by the President to fight the violence meted against women, children and people with disabilities following the brutal killing and rape of 17-year-old Anene Booysen and others

ISSUED BY: SADTU Secretariat