21 December 2021
The South African Democratic Teachers’ Union (SADTU) held its last scheduled National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting for the year virtually on 17 December, 2021. The meeting was the first after the November local government elections. It took place shortly after the closure of schools for the December holidays marking the end of the 2021 academic year. Pertinent issues were raised and critical decisions were taken regarding plans and programmes for 2022. These included among others, the state of the nation politically, educational, labour, international and socio-economic matters.
The NEC committed the Union to focus on three priorities in 2022: Growing the Union both quantitatively and qualitatively, building consciousness of members in defence of the National Democratic Revolution and professionalization of the education profession/public service through decolonisation. It took decisions on several matters:
On education matters:
The NEC noted the writing of the final matric examinations but raised concerns about instances of load shedding which affected the examinations. It called on the Department of Basic Education to take this into account towards the learners and teachers that would have been directly affected by the load shedding on the day of writing, resulting in late coming and other disturbances. SADTU called for the DBE and ESKOM to ensure alternative supplies of energy are availed at marking examination and marking centres. Further, the NEC called for investigations into reports of a possible sabotage directed towards the national grid so that such cases could be deterred in future.
The NEC resolved to take to the union structures the draft framework on the establishment, registration and regulation of online schools in South Africa by the Department of Basic Education for comment and input as part of consultation and gathering the views of stakeholders before finalising the online school framework.
Online schools are already in existence but there is currently no policy and regulation. The private sector is running these schools and charges exorbitant fees. The NEC expressed concern that online school learning was robbing the learners from attaining soft skills that are acquired through face to face interaction. The NEC condemned universities that are launching so-called online high schools instead of focusing post schooling transformation to contribute in building social cohesion and scarce skills. The profit-driven universities have no future in this fast changing world and the sooner they come to terms with that reality the better. Exploiting secondary schools for profit is immoral and this must stop.
The NEC came out strongly against increasing reports of gender based violence in schools. It committed the union to continue to be on the side of victims and campaign against the scourge. The NEC resolved to ensure that campaigns against gender-based violence are cross-cutting in all union activities. The Union’s code of conduct should be made into a living document by invoking it on members who are found guilty of gender-based violence. The Union is going to use its “I am A School Fan” campaign to ensure safety in our schools, to also fight gender-based violence as well as bullying by both the learners and teachers.
Although a significant majority of workers in the education sector have been vaccinated, emerging reports suggest there might be an increasing element of hesitancy among the rest of the general population. Those who are reluctant to receive the vaccines put those who have received the vaccine at a health risk. The vaccines were not meant to be permanent but to build resistance. The longer people take to vaccinate, the more variants develop making it harder to contain the spread of the pandemic. What happens at broader community level, has a direct impact on the education system. The NEC sadly noted the increasing number of children infected as compared to 2020 and therefore called on the Department of Health to be pro-active and start rolling out vaccines for 5 to 11 year olds. The NEC warned against reports that Omicron is mild because such reports are misleading and dangerous. Omicron is not an a common cold or flu but it Covid and it can choke anyone to death. The NEC calls on everything to be informed and base their decisions on research and not untested reports. Further that the Union remains firmly behind science, vaccines, public health and public education. Vaccines are free and available and in act of solidarity and common good the NEC urges all people to take vaccines unless they are not eligible for various reasons. The TRIPS waiver to have vaccines universal is the only way to defeat this virus.
On labour matters:
The NEC noted the discontinuing of the rural allowance for educators with effect from January 2022. It however reiterated the union’s position that, as labour, we could not agree to the discontinuation of any benefit to our own members. The NEC resolved to initiate discussions around rural incentives and if it comes to a push, follow the legal route. In provinces where the departments have discontinued the rural allowance the NEC resolved that the Union institute legal action at the level of the province.
The NEC noted the introduction of the Rural education assistants project but questioned the fact that it is meant for primary schools. The NEC called on the project to be extended to secondary schools as well.
On political matters:
The NEC noted and deliberated on the local government elections. SADTU, as an affiliate of COSATU backed the ANC in the elections. The support for the ANC was based in the conclusion that, in as far as the workers and the poor were concerned, despite the setbacks, weaknesses and failures in some instances, the ANC remains the only vehicle best placed to lead, advance and further the gains of the National Democratic Revolution given its track record and posture on many fronts.
The NEC noted the low voter turnout and the poor performance by the ANC. It resolved to await the analysis of these elections from the upcoming SACP and COSATU Congresses in 2022. This would assist the Alliance members to analyse the epoch and come up with ways on how to reconfigure the Alliance. It however, emphasised that moving towards 2024, the ANC-led Alliance should reposition itself as the true leader of society.
Reflecting on the year with an eye for the future, the NEC spoke of the need for valuation-embedded curriculum. Values have got to be embedded in the curriculum because they are guiding principles that underpin what our societies believe to be important when making decision in all areas of life. Attitudes are underpinned by values and beliefs and they influence behaviour and as a country that is experiencing high level of gender based violence delays in teaching values is not an option.
The NEC therefore resolved that the Union should continue with its political and trade union work through engagements with principals at the level of schools, CET, TVET colleges and universities so as to locate the development of human resources within the context of the NDR. This will happen under the Professionalisation programmes in 2022.
SADTU will be signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Union of Education, Science, and Sports Workers of Cuba (NUESSW). The MoU will serve to formalise the working relationship between the two unions in the best interests of their respective memberships based on the principle of international working-class solidarity.
The main objectives of the MoU are to promote South-South cooperation, bridge knowledge and resources gap on Early Childhood Development and Professionalisation of Public Service, help bridge the gap between a developed educational system like that of Cuba and South Africa by promoting social and cultural development, solidarity in the mutually beneficial campaigns and projects.
Both the unions will undertake to raise awareness about their struggles to their respective membership through information and publicity, share different and common experiences through regular exchange of information and human resources and organise working exchange tours for SADTU to visit Cuba and NEUSSW to come to South Africa to understand and collaborate in our respective education sectors.
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