If Sadtu strikes, they strike pupils

2011-11-12 10:16

Dear Sadtu,

We met in my early teens in the Eastern Cape dorpie of Port St Johns, my hometown. I accept that you don’t know me, but can assure you the opposite is only too true.

You see, I’ve been at the mercy of you and your members for most of my time at Roman Catholic Junior Secondary and Port St Johns Senior Secondary schools.

You may want proof to claims that many of the country’s public school-educated youths suffer because of the ways of many of your members, but we nervously laugh each time you defend them.

We are the young people who were forced out of school early because Sadtu members had a 10.30am meeting in the town hall – not only did we leave school before normal time; we also had to take our chairs to the meeting’s venue.

You and your members actively practised child labour.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying your members were monsters.

After all, it was your members who, without extra pay or recognition, ­organised the best athletes among us and unflinchingly encouraged us to be our best. They sacrificed family time and we appreciate that.

But recent revelations that you were planning to strike in the middle of the matric exams reminded me of the early years when we were introduced to your members. It wasn’t a formal introduction but it’s etched in my memory.

As you know, the Majola clan is known for its caring and generosity. Our modest two-bedroom home was no different, thanks to my late mother, who also belonged to that clan.

After upheavals at a school next to my mother’s village, Mhlotsheni, the principal – let’s call her Mrs M – was forced out and had to report for duty at the ­circuit office, which was not far from our home. True to her nature, my ­mother took her in and she became part of our family.

Mrs M was a tough but reasonable, experienced teacher who treated my siblings and me as her own. However, all that would change when she spoke about you – with contempt: “uSadtu Jola (my mother’s clan),” she would yell at my mother to show her contempt for the union.

She believed your members had effectively chased her away because she was ­enforcing rules at her school – expecting every teacher to be at school on time and, well, to teach.

Mrs M, until she left our home, felt your members were enemies of education in that village and of poor Africans at large. At some stage at one of my alma maters, the entire teaching staff’s offspring, many of whom were my peers and friends, attended Model C schools across the province and southern KwaZulu-Natal. This is still the case across the country.

These schools are among the least likely to go on strike any time of year, let alone in the middle of matric exams. I’m not opposed to teachers progressing, but it shouldn’t be at the expense of others equally hungry – for progress.

You and your members appear willing to gamble on the education of the majority of the nation’s children but not on your own. Your concerns may be genuine, but surely another bargaining tool (other than the country’s future) can be found.

I’ll never forget that I can write this mainly because your members made it possible in challenging conditions, but I also demand that they give public ­education the same attention given to their own kids’ schooling.

If you go on strike during these ­matric exams, would it not be fair for parents of the children whose futures you will be inconveniencing and wrecking to do the same to the schools attended by your kids?

Kind regards,
Loyiso Sidimba

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