16 June 2020
The South African Democratic Teachers’ Union (SADTU) joins the country in commemorating the youth of 1976 who, on this day, rose up against all odds to defy the apartheid education system and thus paved the way for the democracy and freedom we so enjoy today. As SADTU, we pay homage to the youth of 76 for understanding the power of education in liberating the people from mental slavery and ignorance and their understanding of the role of quality education as an enabler to the young and old.
They fought for equality and dignity because all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. Let’s remember that the protests of June 1976 resulted in a number of casualties. This must remind us that the inequalities they fought against are still with us today after more than twenty years of freedom and democracy.
This year we commemorate this day in the midst of the COVID 19 pandemic which has led to the closure of schools, work places and restriction of movement in order to flatten the pandemic’s curve. The COVID 19 has caused us to once again, confront the inequalities that still exist in the country’s education system.
As schools have opened for Grades 7 and 12, doors are still shut in some schools that are accessed by the learners from the poor and working class because the basics like water and proper ablution facilities that should be there to ensure the health and safety of the learners, teachers and support personnel in the midst of the pandemic, have not yet been provided.
COVID 19 continues to inflict more pain as it delays the progress of the poor. Solomon Mahlangu and Hector Pieterson should be turning in their grave when our leaders are shamelessly mastering the art of stealing from the poor during this time just as they did during the funeral of our icon Nelson Mandela. The high prices by some service providers and the quality of the materials they produce and deliver at schools for profit maximisation is a shame.
Those who sacrificed their lives for quality education in the protest of 1976 would be nauseated and disgusted by the abhorable conditions of some our schools. They are turning in their graves when schools are vandalized and materials such as sanitizers and masks are stolen. They are frowning at the deliberate torching of schools, stealing the future of our children, in the name of misdirected militancy and thuggery.
As we commemorate this day, we must ask Basic Education Minister and the MEC’s whether the 95% readiness for our schools to reopen that we cautiously welcomed was indeed 95% readiness. We must ask if the readiness was measured by the readiness of white schools or the marginalised schools. We must ask why so many schools still remain closed after the white schools commenced with education on the 1 st of June.
The decision to reopen the schools did not consider the real situation for the poor and the working class but has served to maintain and further perpetuate inequality.
Unlike the youth of 76, who sacrificed their futures for all to gain, we are in 2020 confronted with the reality that those who have the resources continue to receive education while those who do not have, are simply left behind. What future are we going to build if we cannot sacrifice for the common good? Why must the poor understand that they deserve no solidarity, compassion and kindness? Why is the national government treating education as if it is not part economic stimulus? Why is there no money to address the outstanding delivery of water and mobile toilets after 15 days of resumption of schooling?
We are shocked to see government giving in to the unbanning of alcohol but failing to declare schools without water and ablution facilities as a national disaster that requires massive resources. The Government prioritised alcohol that has caused so many accidents on the first day of opening of liquor stores and therefore requiring RAF to spend billions of rinds which would have been directed to provide water and ablution facilities in our schools as part of economic recovery.
Will the government be ready for the 60% of the learners who are due to return to school on the 6 th July or are we going to be made to endure the pain we suffered in the past two months. The fight we had to wage for compliance with COVID 19 regulations was unnecessary because these regulations were passed by the same government officials who had to be reminded of their responsibilities. Being honest is revolutionary and the Minister the MEC’s should not be reminded of the oath they took to serve with honesty and diligence. We will play our part to care for our learners as teachers and education support personnel but we won’t stop to remind the Minister and the MEC’s of their obligations.
At this opportune moment, we want to remind all schooling communities of SADTU’s “I AM A SCHOOL FAN” campaign. A campaign that seeks to rally the whole of society towards taking greater responsibility for the education of our children.
The mitigating strategies that are meant to push back against the pandemic in education require all stakeholders to play their role instead of pointing fingers and playing the blame game and this includes parents, organisations of faith, NGOs, the business community, learners and government departments amongst others. We are therefore calling upon the whole of society to take greater responsibility in ensuring that the schooling environment continues to be safe and optimal against a COVID pandemic.We call on all our people to honour the Class of 1976 by observing all the health and safety precautions. We call on parents to teach their children the importance of social distancing, washing of hands with soap for 20 seconds or sanitising and wearing of masks in publi while they are still at home. These lessons are important because when children come to schools, they will be ready for the new normal. Parents must lead by example in preaching love and togetherness at home in honour of the Class of 1976 so that we don’t have bullies taking other learners’ masks or sanitizers in our classrooms.
As we commemorate this day, we vow never to allow corruption to thrive and rob our children of the working class and poor of their future as this would an insult to the Class of 76. Corruption should be flagged as part of disaster capitalism and accumulation by dispossession by politicians, bureaucrats and heartless businesses. #BlackLivesMatter.
ISSUED BY: SADTU Secretariat
General Secretary, Mugwena Maluleke: 082 783 2968
Deputy General Secretary, Nkosana Dolopi: 082 709 5651
For media enquiries:
Media Officer, Nomusa Cembi: 082 719 5157 and Secretariat Officer,
Xolani Fakude 071 355 1566