Sadtu disrupts matric trials

2013-09-04 00:00

MATRIC trial examinations ground to a halt across the province yesterday as the South African Democratic Teachers’ Union (Sadtu) intensified its go-slow.

The Witness understands that the Education Department took a decision to stop the writing of the examinations.

“The situation was that you would find one district that is being affected by the go-slow and another which is not, so a decision was taken to stop all the writing [today],” said an insider.

Sadtu members allegedly shut down education district offices in various parts of the province, making it impossible for principals to fetch examination papers, and allegedly intimidated some schools into not writing their exams.

Education Department spokesperson Sihle Mlotshwa confirmed that the writing of trial exams had been put on hold.

“There is a meeting between the department and the leaders of Sadtu … a decision was taken not to write the exams until a solution is found to the current impasse,” he said.

Among Sadtu’s grievances are the refunding of money docked from its members for participating in an unprotected strike in 2010 and pay hikes for adult basic education teachers.

The union has demanded the suspensions of Education Department head Nkosinathi Sishi and chief financial officer Hlengiwe Mcuma over the issues.

Sadtu members said the exams would only resume once their demands were met.

In Pietermaritzburg, union members yesterday sealed the entrance to the department’s headquarters in Burger Street as they had threatened to do on Monday.

Sishi, who was in Durban yesterday, said he had received reports that workers were blocked from entering the building.

Sadtu members said they would stage a sit-in until their demands were addressed.

Sishi said Education MEC Senzo Mchunu was in talks with the Sadtu provincial leaders and he was hoping that they would reach consensus on the matter.

He said they were planning to send the national exam papers to schools, but had also sent electronic copies “in case they experience any challenges”.

“These exams were only written by schools that performed below 60% in the previous national exams,” said Sishi.

He said the department was still assessing how many schools were affected by the Sadtu action. “These exams are very important to pupils because they use the results to apply for placement at tertiary institutions.

“For the sake of the children, I appeal to teachers to exercise their rights [to strike] responsibly by allowing pupils to write,” said Sishi.

Congress of South African Students (Cosas) president Collen Malatji criticised Sadtu for using pupils to bargain with the department.

“We are not happy with the decision by Sadtu members to disturb our trial exams,” he said.

Malatji said it was not fair for pupils to work hard preparing for the exams, only to be told when arriving at school that they had been postponed. “We cannot sit back and allow Sadtu to use our members as a bargaining strategy whenever they have a problem with management, because that affects the future of our members,” he said.

The Democratic Alliance yesterday weighed in on the issue and called on KZN police commissioner Mmamonnye Ngobeni to intervene following the alleged disruptions.

DA provincial leader Sizwe Mchunu said there had been reports that Sadtu members had blocked roads to prevent access to question paper distribution centres and had stormed schools, tearing up exam papers.

He said Ngobeni should ensure strong police presence at distribution centres and schools.

• Trial exams proceeded as planned at Raisethorpe Secondary School, Pietermaritzburg on Monday, contrary to a report in yesterday’s Witness. We regret the error.

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