As the world today (24 January) observes the International Day of Education, the South African Democratic Teachers’ Union (SADTU) – the largest union in the education and public sector – is calling on government to strengthen education as a public good in order for the country to build a more sustainable, inclusive, and peaceful future by ensuring everyone’s fundamental right to education. 

We observe this day in 2022 still under the Covid-19 pandemic cloud which caused untold damage to education not only in South Africa but globally as it cost a generation of learners their education as they lost precious learning and teaching time and the number of learners who abandoned schooling increased. It also brought to the fore, the inequalities that were already existing in our education system as the private schools who make profit out of education, continued to perform optimally while the public schools could not, due to lack of infrastructure to keep the pandemic at bay.

In South Africa, the International Day of Education is celebrated a few days after the announcement of the 2021 National Senior Certificate (matric) results which saw private schools attaining a 98,39% pass and a 76,4% pass for public schools. At the heart of this anomaly is the uneven access and distribution of resources. We can longer continue to make education a commodity where quality is linked to profit.

It is only through education that the country and its people can improve themselves and their livelihoods. We therefore call for proper funding of education so that it can fulfil its noble cause as an enabler and equaliser both economically and socially. To quote the legendary world statesman, Nelson Mandela: “It is through education that the daughter of a peasant can become a doctor, that the son of a mine worker can become the head of the mine, that a child of farm workers can become the president of a great nation. It is what we make out of what we have, not what we are given, that separates one person from another.” Nelson Mandela.

Let the day serves to send a strong reminder to the authorities that quality education of all is a human right and not a privilege of the rich and elite.

We call for an end to the investment strike by the private sector. As the key beneficiaries of our education system, let the private sector be taxed to fund education

As it is the right for all to access education, language is of crucial importance. Indigenous language should be promoted and developed to serve as mediums of instruction allow all learners a fair chance in education. The system is currently advantaging English and Afrikaans speakers hence their students and schools remain top learners and school.

A good education requires a good foundation. We call on government to flip the system from the unnecessary euphoria on matric and put more focus on Early Childhood Development (ECD) as this is the most important level in the development of a child. Direct the money for matric camps to build solid ECD.

We celebrate this day as we mourn the death of a teacher gunned down outside her school on Friday at Tembisa in Gauteng. Her death is one too many. She is one of many teachers who have in South Africa suffered the same fate in their schools and we are yet to see justice being done by bringing the perpetrators to book.

The scourge of violence in its various forms in schools need to be treated with the urgency it deserves. Education workers and their learners need to feel safe in the schooling environment so that we can achieve the desired results from the system. To this end, SADTU has been rolling our her “I am a School Fan” campaign geared toward mobilising all sections of society to play their respective roles decisively towards making our schools safe. We are calling on the learner, parents, education workers, organisation of faith, corporate South Africa, traditional authorities, NGO’s, the Department of Basic Education, and other government including the South African Police Services to join hands with us in this campaign as we push back against violence in our schools. Let us all be school fans!

Let the day prompt government to produce a proper plan for education in these changing times challenged by inequalities, digital transformation, safety and security in schools and the role education should play in saving our planet.

ISSUED BY: SADTU Secretariat

CONTACT: General Secretary, Mugwena Maluleke: 082 783 2968

                   Deputy General Secretary, Nkosana Dolopi: 082 709 5651

                   Media Officer, Nomusa Cembi: 082 719 5157

                   Secretariat Officer, Xolani Fakude: 071 355 1566