The National Executive Committee (NEC) of the South African Democratic Teachers’ Union (SADTU) – the highest decision-making body in-between congresses, met virtually from the 29th to the 30th of June 2021 to deliberate on organisational, educational, labour, socio-economic, political, and international matters.
The state of the country amid COVID 19
The meeting took place a few days after the country was placed under adjusted level 4 by the National Coronavirus Command Council and on the eve of the early closure of schools for the winter break due to the escalating numbers of COVID 19 cases. The NEC welcomed the smooth rollout of the programme to vaccinate educators and support personnel which began last week and has seen more than 200 000 educators and support personnel being vaccinated. While the NEC appreciated the progress, it said however the union could not fully rejoice in the vaccination programme when thousands of educators in the Early Childhood Development, CET, and TVET sectors were not part of the programme. The NEC resolved to engage the government further including the Minister of Science, Higher Education &Training to address the vaccination of the post-schooling sector.
The NEC called for the vaccination to be spread to as many people as possible to mitigate the devastating effects of this pandemic to save lives and livelihoods. The union will continuetofight vaccine nationalism and put pressure on the government to look at getting the vaccine from Russia and Cuba following due processes led by science. The NEC criticized the bureaucracy surrounding the distribution and vaccination sites and blamed these for the slow vaccination process. “No one is safe until everyone is vaccinated.” said the NEC.
Schools that are normally closer to communities should be used as vaccination sites as it has happened in the education sector and the programme had no hitches. The NEC also called on South Africa to invest in its vaccine production capacity so that it can assist other African states as well.
The NEC commended the South African government who, despite all the shortcomings of the vaccination strategy, has led the charge jointly with India at the global stage for moving the whole world towards a TRIPS waiver for vaccine-related Intellectual Property. SADTU has been one of those loud voices consistently in support of the Copyright Amendment Bill which its importance was put to the fore by the discourse on vaccine production-related Intellectual Property.
The NEC lamented the untold damage caused by the pandemic not only to education but to the economy as well. The first 12 months of the various lockdown levels saw the loss of approximately 2.2 million jobs.
The pandemic further exposed the disparities in our education system. The NEC then resolved to convene an education summit to chart the way forward for education during and post the pandemic. The summit will look at the disparities in the system, the new curriculum which includes among others, robotics, and the use of blended technology in education and their impact on the economy, the kind and training for teachers in this ever-changing environment.
On education matters:
The NEC noted the implementation of the Occupational Curriculum in Schools of Skills and piloting the Vocationally Oriented Curriculum in Ordinary Public Schools as part of strengthening the Three-Stream Model in the basic education sector. The audit by the Department of Basic Education has revealed that a number of provinces were in different stages of readiness to implement the curriculum and there seems to be a lack of teacher supply for subject specialization, lack of learning and teaching materials could prevent the full-scale implementation of the Curriculum. The NEC resolved that the union would keep a close eye on the pilot to ensure that the poorly resourced schools are not disadvantaged by being excluded. The Union will also monitor how teachers are being prepared and developed to offer these subjects.
The NEC further resolved to do the same with the introduction of coding and robotics in schools. The DBE presented timetabling options to accommodate coding and robotics that involve reducing existing notional time in other subjects. The pilot programme for coding and robotics is being implemented in a Covid-19 context where teachers are struggling to complete the recovery programme. Teachers had to make adjustments to accommodate the reduced teaching plans. They are going to be exposed to new teaching content while many of them will be learning robotics and coding content for the first time.
On labour matters:
The public sector wage negotiations:
The facilitation process that was scheduled for the 26th to the 27th of June 2021 was postponed to the 1st of July 2021. The NEC urged the leaders, working through the COSATU Joint Mandating Committee and the FEDUSA unions to expedite the facilitation process and close this round of negotiations.
ECD Function Shift
SADTU will continue to call on the government to expedite andconclude the policy that would ensure the shift of the Early Childhood Development (ECD) function from the Social Development Department to the Basic Education Department. The union will play a key role in theprocess of amending the Basic Education Law Amendment (BELA) Bill to give effect to the ECD function shift that is to relocate Early Childhood Development (ECD) from the Department of Social Development to the DBE. We will exert pressure on the DBE to attend to the conditions of service of all practitioners at the level at the ELRC. We call on thesubmission of the Bill to Cabinet for approval so that it can be introduced to Parliament for consideration.
“The constant delays in the implementation of the ECD function shift are causing stress and insecurity for ECD practitioners and caregivers. This can’t be allowed to drag on forever.” the NEC said.
On international matters
The NEC noted the pro-democracy protests in eSwatini and expressed solidarity with PUDEMO, Swaziland National Association of Teachers (SNAT), the Communist Party of Swaziland, and the people of eSwatini. “We commend the people of eSwatini for advancing their struggles. We hope this is in the interest of liberating the people of eSwatini,” the NEC noted. It however noted the underreporting of events in eSwatini and resolved to call on the South African government and SADC to intervene. The people of eSwatini deserve to live in peace where their will is expressed through a democratic process. The King and the monarchy must be above politics as an institution that unites the nation. The NEC was also concerned that the involvement of the King in the day-to-day running of the country would give the imperialist/capitalist forces that are targeting monarchies in Africa to undermine the stature of this traditional institution.
The NEC expressed its support for theCuban struggle and celebrated the overwhelming majority vote at the United Nations of 184 votes opposed by only two countries as a victory of our global campaign calling for an end to the economic, commercial, and financial blockade imposed by the United States against Cuba. It called on the United Nations to be firm in implementing Resolution 184 that will see an end to the blockade. The NEC expressed deep disappointment in the current United States leadership led by Joe Biden for following in Donald Trump’s footsteps in supporting the Cuban blockade.
On gender-based violence
Following the increasing number of instances of violence and sexual harassment cases by teachers against learners, SADTU will on the 18th of July – International Mandela Day, hold a virtual National Men’s Forum to allow the union to reflect on the impact of gender-based violence in our school communities. The union will define its code of conduct in ensuring its members are disciplined and professional in their conduct.
The union will continue to condemn any barbaric tendencies of bullying and racism at our schools that continue to rear their ugly heads. The union will campaign against schools being Volkstats and will oppose any attempts to exclude Blacks from accessing these public institutions. Schools should remain centres of learning. They are a key part of our nation-building project and cannot be reduced to sites that denigrate and humiliate our children.
The union will take responsibility through the” I am a School Fan” campaign to change the scene and take forward the legacy of Nelson Mandela, the 1976 generation and achieve one of the clauses of the Freedom Charter “The Doors of Learning and culture shall be opened”.
On political matters
The NEC resolved to fight against corruption and urge the law enforcement agencies to investigate the allegations as laid bare at the Zondo Commission and act with urgency in prosecuting those who have collapsed the economy of our country. The NEC will through COSATU participate in the campaigns seeking to defend the Constitution and the Judiciary. Our liberation struggle was based on the supremacy of the law and no person is above the law.
Members are urged to ignore the WhatsApp message making rounds accusing the General Secretaries of SADTU and NEHAWU of heading for parliament. The message is mischievous and must be ignored as the union remains focused on the fight for decent conditions of service for all the workers in the public service.
The NEC called on all South African to strictly adhere to the lockdown restrictions as announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa.
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