Cosas suspends strike after crisis meeting

2010-09-17 07:06

The Congress of SA Students (Cosas) has temporarily suspended its protest against preliminary exams, following a meeting with the basic education crisis committee.

“We are suspending the boycott of preliminary exams pending the education department’s response to our demands in a meeting to be held on Saturday,” Cosas deputy secretary-general Sbonelo Shezi told reporters in Johannesburg.

The committee consists of the Young Communists’ League, the SA Students’ Congress, the SA Democratic Teachers’ Union (Sadtu), the SA Graduate Development Association and the Congress of SA Trade Unions (Cosatu).

It resolved that there should be immediate restoration of the culture of learning and teaching in all schools from today.

It supported Cosas’s demands for a week’s postponement of both the preliminary and final exam dates.

YCL national secretary Buti Manamela said pupils could not be ignored when they said they were not ready to write the preliminary exams.

“Those students who are writing are doing so to fail really. The recent strike by teachers and other public servants was bigger than the 2007 strike in terms of its effect,” he said.

The June holiday, which was prolonged because of the Fifa World Cup had made the situation worse.

There had been no schooling in some schools in the Eastern Cape, Free State, Limpopo and Gauteng.

“We believe that these protests have been legitimate as there was time lost in terms of learning and teaching, especially in black schools,” said Manamela.

“This is a national crisis. We need all the help we can get in recovering the time lost,” he said.

He called on the ANC, Cosatu and SA Communist Party to intervene by convening an education alliance to look into the matter, which he said could not be resolved by the minister of basic education alone.

“Cabinet should also help the minister because this crisis affects all learners, but township and rural schools are the most affected.

“If they write the preliminary exams and fail, that will contribute to their final exams, and subsequently, their chances of admission to universities.”

The students demanded marks worth 25% of their final exams if the department failed to postpone the preliminary and final exam dates by a week.

“Saturday classes and two hours of schoolwork should be added to every school day to recover time lost during the prolonged June holidays and the teachers’ strike thereafter.

“Also, we should not close for the September holidays,” said Shezi.

Cosas would meet the department of basic education and Sadtu on Saturday to discuss ways to avert the “crisis”.

“If the department still fails to meet the demands after the meeting, we are going back to the strike on Tuesday,” he said.

Sadtu further education and training specialist Kaizer Makole told reporters that union members would do anything possible to help pupils.

“Our members are committed to working extra classes, but an official announcement will be made after Saturday’s meeting with the department.”

Education department spokesperson Panyaza Lesufi said the department would appoint a task team to investigate the concerns of students and teachers.

The task team was expected to issue a report to the department on its findings by Monday, he said.

Cosas has been disrupting, violently in some cases, preliminary matric exams in schools across the country.

Forty-two pupils were arrested in Limpopo yesterday after they allegedly forced other pupils out of classes.

They were expected to face charges of intimidation when they appeared in the Mookgopong and Mahwelereng magistrates courts.

In the North West earlier yesterday, police fired rubber bullets to disperse protesting pupils in Lethabong near Rustenburg.

Eighteen high school pupils were arrested in Emachibini in Mtubatuba, KwaZulu-Natal for allegedly trying to burn down their school yesterday morning.

According to Eastern Cape police, 10 pupils were arrested on Wednesday in Mthatha and Port Elizabeth for public violence.

In the Free State a 17-year-old schoolgirl was shot dead in Allanridge, near Welkom on Monday, allegedly by a police officer who fired a warning shot into the ground during an exam protest. 

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