SADTU Statement of SADTU in KZN following the PEC meeting

18 May 2021

The South African Democratic Teachers' Union has convened this media conference after the Provincial Executive Committee, which sat over the weekend. This media conference will deal with the decisions of the PEC on several issues that affect teaching and learning. The PEC acknowledged that it was held when there are concerns about the increasing numbers of new infections recorded by day. There are indications that the country is already in the third wave. This meeting also reminded members that it was taking place when teacher union negotiators are hard at work negotiating to improve conditions of service currently taking place in the PSCBC. The PEC also notes that the Collective Agreement 1 of 2018 is still in the Constitutional Court. The PEC is convinced that the government is undermining collective bargaining and is totals erosion of hard-won victories of workers.

This PEC meeting was the second meeting of the year dedicated to all members of SADTU and all other people who lost their lives to Covid19 related illnesses. During its deliberations, the Union's leadership realised that many people who had contributed to the course we care about have passed on. We mean activists who played their role in the transformation agenda and contributed immensely in ensuring that the aspirations of the quality teaching and learning campaign were/ and realised. These people include teachers and education workers and educationists who became activists for creating a learning nation, thus pushing towards SADTU Vision 2030. This statement is, therefore, dedicated to them.

Firstly the PEC noted the shortage of teachers in many schools in the province of Kwazulu Natal. The Department knew these shortages even last year, but there seems to be no urgency in prioritising teaching and learning by ensuring that there are always teachers in front of learners. This is what the Unesco declaration emphasises. The PEC maintains that education is a public good that everyone must access regardless of their class standing in society. Because of this understanding, SADTU believes that teachers' non-provision in schools equals denying learners their fundamental human right.

SADTU as a revolutionary union has been occupied all along, starting from last year, with thinking about strategies and ideas of how best to ensure that all schools in the provinces are allocated with the full complement of the teachers, unfortunately in line with the number of learners they have. It was SADTU last year that rejected the incorrect distribution of teachers in the province. The way the 90057 teacher posts allocated by the MEC had to be distributed to schools using the learner numbers was incorrectly done. SADTU advised schools to contest the allocation given in their PPN certificates; SADTU wrote to the Department, calling for the Department to have its house in order and learn how to make calculations. All that was done, and SADTU was happy to have successfully assisted schools that stood to be robbed of some posts through the dodgy process done by the EMIS and HR section of the Department.

After these processes, schools were to declare surplus teachers and allow the Department to match and place in CMTT, DTT and PTT. Usually, these processes get done and concluded before the end of the year to allow teachers to assume in schools in the new academic calendar. It is unfortunate to report that the process became chaotic, and reasons for that chaos remain unexplained, but the fact is that many schools were still without teachers in January. SADTU, again concerned about what was about to happen where learners were to come back mid-February to find themselves without teachers, called several meetings to engage the Department on this critical matter. Unfortunately, it was more like it was SADTU that was convinced that schools had no teachers. This we say because, during all the meetings we had, the Department had been adamant that everything was in order. We had engagements in the PELRC, and we had side meetings with the employer to knock in their heads that they must come to the rescue of the schools and the learners that were not being taught. The first meeting was on 4 February. In this meeting, SADTU was proactive, knowing that learners were to open on 15 February.

The use of an Application (APP)

The trend in the KZN has always been that schools receive at least five names from the database of unemployed teachers to interview for the post level one teacher posts. The Department in KZN started around 2009 to have a database wherein qualified unemployed teachers were registering their names to consider employment. SADTU has consistently raised concerns about this process as there were controversies and lacked transparency around the undefined criteria of selecting the five from thousands in the database who qualify for the post. In 2018 SADTU initiated a discussion in the PELRC that there was a need for the Department to review the database. The concerns, for example, included that unemployed teachers would complain that they were ignored as people who would have joined after them would get employment. Working together in PELRC, we identified things that were a problem with that database. During that process, the Department indicated its willingness to introduce online registration to the database. This was to be done through the App and was aimed at assisting those unemployed teachers who want to register to avoid long travelling long distances to districts and Head Office in Pietermaritzburg just to put their details in the database. It must be indicated that SADTU has no problem with the use of an App for registration purposes. However, SADTU, even during that time, did highlight the challenges of connectivity that the Union identified as a possible threat to the ability of unemployed teachers to access the App. The Department promised that it would not do away with manual entrances to the database and that there were to be facilities at district offices that would allow those challenged by data and connectivity to have access to the App still.

It is, however, unfortunate that some of the challenges schools are currently faced with are a result of rushing into the use of the App as a recruitment tool. SADTU learned last year that the Department was now utilising the App to select five candidates and give schools to conduct interviews. To this extent, some schools were informed that the interview processes they conducted were not approved because the candidates they interviewed were not from the App.

Remember, at that time, principals, SGBs and teachers did not know about the App, but the Department did not approve those processes and schools were left without teachers. Some of those posts have not been filled even today. Where appointments have been made, it is mainly because of the intervention of SADTU.

Again the Department was engaged, and HR Section was adamant that there were no staffing challenges in schools. At some point, people may have heard the Department talking about the more than 700 teachers who had not assumed in the new schools. It must be known that SADTU proposed that meeting of the Department and leaders of Unions. If we had not called this meeting, the HOD, Dr Nzama, Top management, and District Directors would not have known that there was that crisis in schools. It is SADTU that dragged the department HR to meetings. In this meeting, SADTU argued that the Department must account for teachers who moved to new schools. We discovered that the Department relied on paper placement than physical movement and assumption to schools. This meeting took place on 30 April 2021, where SADTU pleaded with the Department to prioritise teaching and learning.

SADTU raised with the HOD that the failure of HR to think and devise strategies to deal with the staffing of schools was a threat to the performance of schools. We reminded him that, unfortunately, when schools fail to produce the required results, the School principal is blamed, and no one else becomes responsible enough to admit that they contributed to poor performance. We reminded the HOD that, unfortunately, the failure of the Department to provide teachers to schools appropriately and timeously is mainly affecting the no-fee schools, which do not have resources to appoint additional teachers as resourced schools do. This, unfortunately, widens the gap between schools hence the existence of two categories of schools defined by their economic status. Those that were well resourced continue with that status even now more than close to thirty years after democracy.

Our understanding is that the functionality of any organisation, including the Department of education, is dependent on the functionality of HR. Our take also is that HR in this province has collapsed, and only when everyone, including those in the highest positions of authority, realises that a drastic act of a revolution is needed as we believe that revolution is about making decisions, implement decisions and make meaningful change. For now, that does not exist. Lastly, our observation is that sections/directorates of the Department are not pulling together. This is dangerous and can be seen through the circulars and letters that conflict with each other being issued- again, schools are left wondering and more confused than before.

BACK TO THE APP

The Department caused learners to suffer in 2020 through non-appointment or delayed appointment of teachers when the Department started training principals only in March 2021. Even in these training sessions, principals complained that it was just theory that lacked practicalisation as the trainers were frustrated by connectivity problems and informed principals that the App works well if you have an iPhone. The question is, who will buy the gadgets for all schools to use the App. Unlike other provinces, teachers, schools and principals in KZN are not provided with any tool of trade in the form of a laptop. It is only now that we see the MEC piloting and giving some school principals the tablets; this is not enough considering the changing methods of teaching imposed by Covid 19 where teachers have to rely on digital methods to catch up with times.

SADTU still maintains that the App cannot be used for recruitment or appointment purposes. Again reasons for SADTU objecting to the App is on the understanding that appointment of teachers is guided by Employment of Educators Act 76 of 1998 Section 6 (3) (a), which, for example, empowers the HOD to match and place excess teachers temporarily and then the Personnel Administrative Measures (PAM) which allows the Department to advertise posts. SADTU has sponsored debate and discussion that the Department must go back to the basics and use the approach as stipulated in PAM. With this, we believe that there will be fairness and transparency in the appointment of teachers.

Having said all this, SADTU emphasises the need for all surplus teachers to move to schools where they are placed. Therefore, SADTU condemns the growing tendency of some within schools of rejecting excess teachers placed in their schools. As a revolutionary Union, there is no way that we can support that learners must not be taught and suffer. Rejecting teachers placed in schools lead to learners not engaging in the learning process. When learners are not taught, it means those learners have been denied their fundamental right to education. As a result, some schools could not write all subjects in the first term common tests.

CALL FOR THE DEPARTMENT TO SUPPORT TEACHERS FOR EFFECTIVE TEACHING AND LEARNING

The Provincial Executive Committee meeting discussed what it viewed as the declining or lack of support to teachers. Teachers like the learners they teach were never prepared for the rotational teaching they are now doing. There is a lot of work and information shared through social networks and emails, but no one thinks about the financial strain suffered by teachers as they sometimes have to print and have that information that comes in huge files.

The content gap created by the curriculum trimming, for example, is now a burden on teachers, and there is no guidance from the Curriculum Delivery Branch. Nothing is being done to support teachers so that there can be effective teaching and learning in schools. In the past, the Department would have quarterly sessions with subject advisors to deal with curriculum and then go back and empower their teachers. The curriculum directorate is just doing nothing, and teachers are on their own, unfortunately, at a very critical time. Teachers need support more than ever. The Department must make available the money from the skills levy to train and develop teachers. That is why there are 80 hours in a year in which teachers must attend development programmes. The PEC holds a view that the Department does not realise that teachers are a very critical resource that the Department has, which, if natured correctly, can do wonders in improving performance in schools.

FILLING OF VACANCIES IN THE DEPARTMENT

SADTU appreciated the commitment of the Department in filling vacancies in the offices and schools. Since 2018 after the march SADTU had in October 2017 and the bilateral meetings SADTU had with the Department of Education and the HOD in the Department of Finance, we have seen the Department always advertising and filling the vacancies. However, there is a need for the Department to begin to respond to the employment equity gaps that the Department currently has.

PEC observed and frowned when realising that few women were promoted in the recent office-based posts. Women are still preferred for the lower level posts. This cannot be correct, and SADTU will soon release a full report on how the Department has acted in the recent HRM 38 of 2020 against the recent Employment Equity report and targets. We shall present this report, once concluded, to both the HOD and MEC to propose a strategy to address the armormalies that we see.

We are aware that the Department intends to advertise School-based promotion posts. Filling these vacancies is necessary as School Management Team posts are critical for the functionality of schools. SADTU supports the plan to advertise these posts. However, SADTU is concerned that there is no effort to deal with processes that are sometimes deliberately delayed by officials of the Department of education, especially in districts. Some posts were advertised in the previous bulletins, but no appointment has been made. SADTU is of the view that the HOD must take over the processes from districts and assist schools. In doing this, the HOD must engage governing bodies of the affected schools and arrange for the processes to be finalised. There cannot be a situation where districts are sitting on processes for more than two years as that equals sabotage of the same Department. The PEC resolved that SADTU must have a bilateral meeting with both the HOD and MEC to raise all these issues.

SCHOOL GOVERNING BODY ELECTIONS

The election of SGBs has been concluded. SADTU congratulate all parents and workers who are elected in different schools. SADTU believes that SGBs are critical in establishing a conducive environment for teaching and learning in schools. Therefore, we call on the Department to work with governing body associations to identify developmental needs and implement a comprehensive programme to help individual SGBs understand their roles in schools. SADTU PEC commits to encouraging schools to affiliate with School governing associations and that the Department must assist with affiliation fee using the provisions of the South African Schools Act.

THE PLIGHT OF GRADE R PRACTITIONERS

KZN is among the lowest-paying employers of the Grade R practitioners. As we speak, some have not even received their stipends for April 2021 because there are officials who sleep on duty. The issue here is that because of the nature of their employment, their contracts get terminated at the end of the financial year, which is the end of March. Officials who understand what it means to miss a payment are always proactive and inform the system; thus, Grade Practitioners will not be affected by the end of the financial year. Another issue affecting them is the non-recognition of the qualifications, especially those with a BED. HRM 50 of 2019 created a safety valve for them and other substitute educators in schools to be considered for absorption if they meet the requirements of the post in the schools where they are. Again, this process was not monitored because of the HR's failures, and different signals were given to schools. As a result, many are still not moved to the mainstream. SADTU is still committed to fighting for the improvement of their conditions of service. As such, SADTU continues to engage the employer on new ideas that can bring stability and recognition at the same time. We are currently engaged on the possibility of having a special dispensation to prioritise Grade R practitioners and substitute educators who have served for more than three months.

UPCOMING HUMAN RESOURCE SUMMIT

It is worth mentioning that HR challenges are not new in this Department. For the past three years, we have seen schools struggling, teachers struggling with non-payment of acting allowance, teachers stuck in schools where they are because officials do not approve transfers, the way leaves are managed leave much to be desired. Teachers and other education workers suffer from deductions for leave without pay even when they were not fit for work but because Thandile declares that they are fit sometimes without even seeing or interviewing these employees. How disciplinary and grievance cases are handled is concerning. The challenges range from non-implementation of arbitration awards and sometimes witch-hunting that we see. SADTU, for years, have been calling for the convening of an HR summit so that these issues are discussed with the hope of developing a shared understanding and approaches in dealing with issues of cause guided by law. To this effect, SADTU will be gearing herself for this important Summit. SADTU is convening all branch secretaries and regions over the weekend to prepare ourselves for meaningful and productive engagements in the Summit. This Summit is scheduled for 9-11 June 2021.

SADTU is busy engaging with DHET on issues of non-recognition of improved qualifications in TVET Colleges. The Union is concerned about instability in some colleges caused by the non-appointment of College Principals. Esayidi and Umfolozi, and Coastal colleges, remain hugely challenged, and the DHET is called upon to make necessary intervention by appointing Principals in these Colleges. The appointment of an Administrator in Coastal is welcomed and call upon the Minister to assess whether it is not necessary to do the same at Umfolozi. SADTU will soon be convening a meeting with members in TVET to look at the progress made in the roll-out of PPN workshops.

As we conclude, the PEC also elected Comrade Wonder Mpisi stationed at Nogqaza Primary school in Umgungundlovu district as the Provincial Treasurer and Comrade Noligwa Magwaza working at Thembalethu High School at Harry Gwala district as the Sports, Arts and Culture Convener. These two leaders are tried and tested leaders of the Union who have led at various levels of the organisation, and we are confident that they will strengthen the Provincial Working Committee.

The bi-elections were as a result of the retirement of Comrade Nana Masoka, who was the Principal of Thamela Primary School in Umlazi and the resignation of Comrade Mpiyakhe Mchunu – the former principals of Baqulusini High School in Zululand district after his promotion to a CES position. SADTU appreciates and these comrades and many others for the contribution they made to the Union.

Prepared by the secretariat:

Provincial Secretary- Nomarashiya Caluza: 0826117027
Deputy Provincial Secretary - Bheki Shandu: 0826117028