Statement of SADTU - KZN on the Reopening of schools

28 July 2021

The South African Democratic Teachers’ Union has been monitoring the reopening of schools with the purpose of ascertaining whether all schools are ready for reopen and begin with their teaching and learning. The reopening for the third term takes place with teachers, learners and parents having a lot of uncertainties informed by the incidences of the past two weeks which could not leave out schools.  About 137 schools were reported as having been vandalised, some had break-ins whilst others suffered arson damages.

Mobilising stakeholders to support and protect schools through the ‘I am A School Fan Campaign’

To start with, on the 25th of July 2021 SADTU in KZN organised a meeting with all education stakeholders for schools around Phoenix. The convening of the meeting was informed by the calls SADTU received from some teachers and parents who were concerned about their safety after the killings that took place in Phoenix. This meeting was attended by school governing body associations, the local Peace Committee, Pinetown District official, the MEC, SAPS, Child Welfare, local councilors and some and other organisations operating in Phoenix. Guided by the ‘I am a School Fan Campaign’, SADTU availed a platform for these stakeholders to realise the necessity of working together to support schools and ensure they are protected from any form of violence. These stakeholders committed in adopting this SADTU campaign and  pledged to care, protect and ensure that schools are safe havens where teaching and learning takes place without any disruption. As a non-racist, non-tribal and non-sexist Union, SADTU reminded attendees in the meeting about the importance of tolerating each other and looking at each other as human beings and colleagues and not as belonging to a particular race. SADTU was also comforted by the presence of the SAPS and soldiers in the area as it gives hope and encouragement that the government is concerned about the safety of citizens residing in that particular area. However, SADTU’s view is that communities must bank on themselves to provide security for each other hence the need to work on all issues that may be dividing people. Stakeholders welcomed the arrests of people alleged to have participated in the incidents of Phoenix.

On appointment and non-appointment of teachers including substitutes

For SADTU, readiness for reopening does not only talk to safety issues only but to ill teaching and learning also taking place as well. The information the union currently has points to a terrible situation where there are still schools that have not received teachers. The outcry from school principals also is that the department has not appointed substitute educators. These issues, coupled together, mean that some schools in the province have not been teaching some of the subjects. This is a serious matter, which has crippled many schools. School Principals reported that there was no indication as to why these appointments are not done. The worst is when the Department is terminating the services of substitute educators without giving the necessary notice as required by the Basic Conditions of Employment (BCEA).

SADTU is aware like other parties that are involved in the ELRC that the department presented an intention not to automatically appoint substitute educators when a promotional post becomes vacant. According to the Department, budget cuts are a reason for this move. It must be noted that SADTU called for that presentation in the form of draft circulars to be put on abeyance so that SADTU could engage have with the HOD and MEC. SADTU’s understanding is that that the matter has not been concluded in the ELRC.  It is therefore shocking to learn that the department is already turning down appointments of substitute educators. This means the Department is implementing something that has not been fully engaged and discussed by unions in the PELRC. Whoever is claiming that there was a PELRC or staffing committee meeting decision on the non-appointment or delayed appointment of substitute educators is lying.  In fact, SADTU’s view which was presented both in the staffing and PELRC meetings as a motivation for the matter to be put in abeyance, is that whilst SADTU like anyone in the country is aware that there are budget cuts which have affected all departments but it remains the responsibility of the department to rethink its programmes. There are programmes that cannot be compromised and teaching and learning is one of those. By the way, teaching and learning is the core business of the Department. Any reasonable manager should know that teaching and learning takes place when there is a teacher and a learner. Therefore, the non-appointment of substitute educators will affect teaching and learning. SADTU believes that this is the reason why some provinces ensured that Department of Education is not affected by budget cuts. SADTU calls on the Department to reconsider its position and views on the appointment of substitutes. The substitutes that are already in schools must not be terminated and the Department must continue appointing where they are needed otherwise there shouldn’t be an expectation of improved results under the circumstances.

As a reminder, the staffing of schools has been a thorny issue for 2021. This chaos must be blamed on the failure of the Department to timeously deal with HRM 61 OF 2021. This happened even when SADTU alerted the Department as early as February 2021 but the Department was ignorant of the realities that were obtained in schools. This is what is haunting the Department even now. The Union appreciated the interventions made so far wherein we have seen more than seven hundred appointments effected as schools reopen. Those responsible for this intervention are encouraged to keep up the good work as there are still schools without educators.

On the Condition of schools, provision of PPEs and water to schools

Primary schools are expected to welcome all their learners on the 2nd of August 2021. The report from schools is that the majority of schools have not received PPEs. In fact, the Department has not delivered even a single PPE to schools.  Many schools will not be ready for all learners if the Department is not providing more space to accommodate learners. This call is informed by the fact that learners are still required to practice social distancing of 1-1.5m at all times in and out of the classroom. The call from members in schools is that for this to happen the Department must provide mobile classes otherwise majority of schools will not be ready. Zululand, Umkhanyakude and King Cetshwayo districts have majority of schools without water supply – another obstacle to readiness of schools. SADTU as usual has a report on the status of schools in KZN. These issues were raised strongly in the command council meeting which was convened by the MEC to report on the state of readiness.  SADTU is therefore calling on the Department to attend to these issues. These issues include the replacement of the National School Nutrition Programme (NSNP) equipment stolen from schools during the recent break-ins. This has resulted in learners in these affected schools not getting the meal they usually get from school. Failure to feed learners in schools compromises their concentration in class and may lead to poor performance by learners. It is therefore important for the Department to address these issues. Readiness of schools and safety of both learners, teachers and education workers must be in the interest of everyone hence the need for the Department to deliver positively on these matters otherwise schools are not ready if these are not attended. 

On the non-payment of school financial allocations

Once more, some school principals reported that their schools did not receive the financial allocation from the Department. These principals raised a concern that they were not informed why the allocations were not paid. This has a negative impact on the smooth running of schools and leads to debts as there are services the schools have to pay. We are now reporting that SADTU checked and called on the Department to pay schools. It was reported by the Department that half of the schools were paid and acknowledged that the other half was not paid. The Department then promised to pay and that schools may receive their monies on the 29th of July 2021.

In conclusion, SADTU will continue with her monitoring of schools and engage the Department to address identified challenges.

I Am a School Fan!!!!!

Issued by the Secretariat

Nomarashiya Caluza
Provincial Secretary
082 611 7027

Bheki Shandu
Deputy Provincial Secretary
082 611 7028