President Cyril Ramaphosa’s Keynote Address on the occasion of the 30th Anniversary of the South African Democratic Teachers’ UNION (SADTU)

6 October 2020

President of SADTU, Cde Magope Maphila,
General Sectary, Cde. Mugwena Maluleke,
Leadership of SADTU at various levels,
Leadership of COSATU and the Alliance,

Allow me to congratulate the South African Democratic Teachers’ Union for reaching yet another milestone.

For 30 years, SADTU has been mobilising, organizing and leading the educators of our country in their struggle for better conditions of employment.

We congratulate you for reaching this point, because we understand too well the difficulties of organizing and leading people from such vastly different backgrounds and world-views.

In the course of the history of our democracy, many organizations have been born with great hopes, only for them to fall into decline or become irrelevant in the face of contemporary challenges.

We can all be proud that 30 years later SADTU remains strong, united and cohesive.  I cannot overemphasize the importance of organized formations of workers in a country with a history such as ours.

The workers organized by SADTU, our educators, are key to the reconstruction and development of our country.

Yesterday countries around the globe marked World Teachers’ Day.

It is a time to appreciate the important role teachers play in nurturing our children, and equipping them with the skills they need to make a positive contribution to society.

I wish to pay tribute to all the teachers of our country who work under very difficult circumstances.

You are true nation-builders, and the work you do is greatly appreciated.

Your dedication to the success of our children and the future of our country has been proven time and again, but more so during the COVID-19 pandemic.

For the sake our children and their academic progress, you braved the dangers and risks posed by COVID-19 and returned to the classroom when asked to do so.

I appreciate that some may have been understandably and justifiably reluctant to return. Nonetheless you did so, because your passion for education triumphed over fear and anxiety.

We remember and pay tribute to those teachers who have succumbed to the virus and those who are still not well

I also wish those who are currently infected a speedy recovery so they are able to return to work to do what they love most, namely teaching our children and nurturing them to be future builders of our country.

Government is committed to the safety of all our educators and learners, as well as of all the support staff in our school environment.

We will continue to do everything in our power and within our means to ensure that your safety is not undermined.

We will continue to provide our teachers with personal protective equipment and all the other support that they need to teach successfully and safely.

At the same time, I urge you to continue to be vigilant. We must keep ourselves and others safe by continuing to observe the regulations around social distancing and good hygiene protocols at all times.

We are acutely aware of the many other challenges that make it difficult for our teachers to do their work.

We are working tirelessly to resolve problems in our schools with regard to infrastructure, namely - sanitation, water, electricity, proper and safe classrooms, as well as access to adequate learning materials.
We must work together to rid our schools of violence that threatens the safety, not only of learners but also of our educators.

Many of them have been subjected to violence, learners have also been subjected to violence and we must work together to eradicate violence in our schools.

Schools are meant to be places where young people learn, happy places, places where they must go in with a smile and leave with a smile that is underpinned by knowledge.

SADTU must play a decisive role in the development and implementation of a comprehensive strategy to eradicate violence in our schools.

These great challenges, which we are determined to resolve, continue to be a stain on our collective conscience.

SADTU has been very vocal about the urgent need to resolve them, and we thank you for that, and the role the organization can play in doing so.

This is consistent with your role as our partner in transforming our education system and eradicating the inequalities that exist within it.

I also urge you to lend your full support to another challenge that threatens to reverse the gains of our hard won democracy, and that is the scourge of corruption.

Let us join hands in the fight against corruption wherever it rears its head, and let us report and expose corruption wherever we see it.

There is a continued pressure that we all face from our people about eradicating corruption and we must respond to what our people are saying in relation to eradicating corruption.

Let me also reassure you that the government takes very seriously the rights of workers, that were won through struggle.

I want to state unequivocally that our democratic government is totally committed to ensuring that the rights that you won in your struggles as workers will not be devalued.
That the right that you fought for, rights such as collective bargaining, the importance of collective bargain that it should never be undermined, is a right that we recognise and a right we want you to be clear that we will not seek to undermine.

We say this so that you can be assured in your minds that we will want to protect this right. We will want to advance it just like you do, and in doing so, we wants to work with you as a union so that our collective adherence to collective bargaining should be something that encourages you to continue to play the role that you play well as the educators of the nation, as nation builders and as nurturing the children of our country.

There will be challenges along the way that we will encounter. But I believe that whatever challenge is the may well be, we will be able to address them and resolve them that we will be able through negotiations through discussions to resolve them for we are all engaged in the important task of building our nation.

Currently we face enormous challenges and one of those is to ensure that we rebuild, reconstruct and transform the economy of our country post COVID-19.

In a little while, we will be outlining a plan of recovery, plan of reconstruction of I economy so that we can effectively together address the ravages of inequality, of unemployment as well as poverty.

COVID-19 has wreaked havoc on the lives of our people and it has also wreak havoc on the education system as a whole and we'd like to thank you for continuing to be focused so that the year is not lost and that is why we applaud you as our educators that despite what covid-19 has brought about your willing and prepared to pick up the task and make sure that our children are young people by educator.

On our side we will want to work with you through your various formations, your federations, your unions to ensure that we do rebuild our country going forward.

This is a task that we believe that we can engage in collectively and be able to resolve the challenges that our nation faces. The challenges that you as workers also face, the challenges that various households in our country face.

You are now 30 years old as a union and the message of hope that I'd like to put across to you as an effective, revolutionary, forward-looking Union is that there are many more tasks that lie ahead which the nation expects that you will be able to nurture the next generation of our country

You have already proven that over the past 30 years you've been able to produce educated young people, you have nature did them and you've made a great contribution to the building of our nation.

I urge that you continue to do so because your role as educators of our country is far greater than many people begin to imagine.

It is possible that sometimes you may think that you are not appreciated, but I want to assure you that indeed you are appreciated.

Today at 30 years old we want to say long live star to continue doing the work that you've been doing and keep your union united, progressive and effective even as we deal with the various challenges that our nation and our people face.

I therefore wish SADTU many more years of unbreakable service.

To the educators of South Africa, i wish you strength, i wish you fortitude and I say happy birthdays SADTU, long live.

Thank you very much.

Issued By The Presidency Of The Republic of South Africa

For 30 years, SADTU has been mobilising, organizing and leading the educators of our country in their struggle for better conditions of employment.