SADTU ready for its National Congress

28 September 2014

SADTU National Congress kicks off next week in spite of splinter union reports.

All systems are in place for SADTU`s 8th Congress due to take place next week from the 2nd until 5th of October 2014 under the theme, `Restore the Character of SADTU as a Union of Revolutionary Professionals, Agents of Change and Champions of People`s Education for People`s Power in pursuit of Socialism.`

The National Congress will take place at Birchwood Conference Centre in Benoni, Ekurhuleni.

We expect close to 1 500 delegates - leaders of the ANC, SACP and COSATU Alliance, guests from government, business, international teacher union representatives from the SADC region, Education International - a global federation of teacher unions with 30 million members and American Federation of Teachers (AFT).

The National Congress is the highest decision making body of the union that has the powers to adopt new resolutions and elect new National Office Bearers {NOB}.

The Congress will assess the Union`s progress towards reaching its 2030 Vision and the implementation of resolutions since the last congress held in 2010.

The Congress will also focus on the following key issues:

Early Childhood Development

It is our view that significant gains can be made by investing in early childhood development as this will reduce repetition rates and increase achievements in education. The congress will look at how to formalize and professionalize the sector. The issue of professional development and the conditions of service with proper resourcing of this sector will be attended to as well as current qualifications of the practitioners and the class sizes.

The current examinations regime

We want to add our voice and raise our discomfort with the over-emphasis on assessments and tests in the education landscape. The purpose of tests and assessments are to secure customized interventions as identified. We cannot have a common tool to assess in a context that is so diverse and unequal. Deviation of the purpose of ANA, as an example, must be costly in terms of teaching time, funds allocated to administer the writing of ANA, frustration of teachers and the labeling of schools is just not assisting schools and the system at large.

Conditions of service

The congress will spend time on the well-being of our members. We hold a firm view that employees who are appreciated and respected are bound to perform optimally. The question of parity of notches of educators will be attended to as well as Presidential Remuneration Commission to investigate public service workers` salaries and make educators a priority. The congress will further discuss the provision of minimum tools to all schools and issue of what a Model School is.

Post provisioning

The congress will look at the issue of overcrowding, more so, at our township schools. The question of the unfavorable learner/teacher ratio affects the whole process of learning and teaching and adds to the workload of teachers. Our teachers can`t be subjected to teaching mass meetings every day. The congress will debate the annual redeployment processes and its impact on the stability of our education system. The congress will also deliberate on the impact of large class sizes on the wellbeing of both learners and teachers in achieving quality public education.

School leadership

The quality of leadership at schools determines the quality of teaching and learning. The challenge is that principals are appointed without effective ongoing support. Principals are tasked with challenges spilling from communities. So, besides ensuring that teaching and learning happens, they have to deal with social challenges.

Recruitment and retention strategy for teachers and education employees.

We are fully aware of the fact that the teacher population is aging and teachers more teachers are leaving the profession largely due to bad working conditions. However, very little is done to recruit new teachers and improve the working conditions. Although we commend Government`s plans to open Colleges of Education to train teachers, we feel the process should be speeded up.

Teaching is to most youth, the last career of choice because it doesn`t have attractive e incentives. The congress will delve deep on what could be done to make the career more attractive and explore retention strategies. The issue of incentives to retain highly qualified, experienced and motivated teachers and education professionals will also be dealt with.

The perceived splinter union

As we finalize preparations for our Congress, we have come across media reports predicting a SADTU splinter union. This did not come as a surprise to us as we have been following the reports for quite sometime.

These reports are to us, an exaggeration. SADTU is a unitary union with provincial structures in all nine provinces but only one province is quoted in the latest media reports in the Times newspaper of Thursday, 25 September 2014. Could this warrant a splinter?

The Provincial Working Committee in North West Province, which is mentioned in the article, issued a statement last week condemning and distancing themselves from people who were addressing SADTU branch meetings, urging members to join the new union.

The Provincial Secretary quoted in the article is not the provincial secretary. He is former member.

Last month (August) the Province held its Conference and Comrade Silas Kale was elected as the Union`s Provincial Secretary.

From May to August this year, all provinces held peaceful Provincial Conferences wherein most of the leaders we re-elected. We never felt that members wanted a new union as they overwhelmingly called for unity and vowed to protect the Union at all costs.

The Times reporter took a briefing from the people who were defeated in disciplinaries, conferences, in three court cases. Surprisingly, the writer did not mention this in his article.

He was certainly not ignorant, but was grossly and manipulatively selective. This selectivity can only be in furtherance of the splitting agenda and to disrupt our scheduled National Congress, which he did not mention, and the preceding Provincial Conferences that will culminate to Congress.

This is regrettable, but in the context of the massive scale of the democratic achievement that is represented by the 8th SADTU Congress, it is insignificant. To raise it to significance while ignoring the Congress is a travesty of journalism.

This selectivity was in spite of the full report of the judgment of Judge Igna Stretch, fully vindicating SADTU, with costs to be carried individually by the vexatious litigant that appeared in The Times` sister newspaper, the Daily Dispatch.

The largest gathering of this so-called splinter union that we know of is eight men whose photograph appeared on Facebook, meeting some weeks ago in a school, somewhere in South Africa.

Those trying to form a union are free to do so but not to use the name and resources of SADTU to accomplish their mission.

SADTU strongly believes that no sane and good-standing member of the Union would want to join a Union led by disgruntled former members who failed to obey and observe the Constitution.

Finally, we would like to advise the media to take the trouble to be a bit more circumspect than Mr Masombuka. If they do they may find that there are various, small attempts at splitting different COSATU affiliates, attempts that are not dissimilar to this unsuccessful one that SADTU has dealt with so comprehensively.

Media would be doing the public a service if they exposed the instigators.

SADTU will continue to defend itself, and it will continue to be part of the process of rescuing our federation, COSATU, within the principle of one industry, one union, one nation, one federation.

Splits, extending union scopes and poaching have no place in COSATU or in any part of the NDR alliance led by the ANC.

The message to those planning to disrupt our congress is that members of SADTU are professionals and not hooligans or anarchists. We urge those who have not been invited to stay far from the venue of the Congress because hooliganism cannot be tolerated as it tarnishes the image of the Union and the profession.

ISSUED BY: SADTU Secretariat