Education as essential service - debate goes on

2012-06-29 16:16
The ANC could not agree whether education should be seen as a essential service, education commission member Angie Motshekga says. (File, Sapa)

The ANC could not agree whether education should be seen as a essential service, education commission member Angie Motshekga says. (File, Sapa)

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Johannesburg - The ANC could not agree whether education should be seen as an essential service, education commission member Angie Motshekga said on Friday.

"The commission resolved that... the process should continue to find a consensus around this matter of declaring education an essential service," Motshekga, who is also the minister of basic education, said on the sidelines of the ANC's policy conference in Midrand, Johannesburg.

"Labour contended that declaring education an essential service sought to take away their right to strike, which was entrenched in the Constitution."

She said labour felt other issues such as teachers' salaries and condition of services should be addressed.

It was resolved that a commission be set up to look at, among other things, teachers' salaries, and compare them internationally.

"If the report-back shows that there is indeed something we can do to improve the conditions of service for teachers, then [we should] agree with them to have a multi-year agreement, so that every year we are not under a threat of strike," said Motshekga.

She said the commission agreed that the process should happen in the next few months, and that the report-back should be made at the ANC's elective conference in December, when it would adopt its policies.

Motshekga said recommendations were also made on infrastructure, the reopening of former teacher training colleges, and the way in which principals of schools and school governing bodies were appointed.

SA Communist Party general secretary and Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande, who was also an education commission member, said the commission resolved that an implementation strategy be tabled in December on free higher education for the poor.

It also recommended that undergraduate students take part in a community service programme.

"This is necessary, given the number of unemployed graduates," Nzimande said.

"The length of community service has not been finalised... [However] it cannot be less than one year," he said.

Nzimande said the commission also resolved that enrolment in higher education institutions had to increase in the next ten years and that there needed to be an increase in infrastructure for post-school education and training.

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