Strike talk is worrying MEC

2010-07-27 00:00

THE KZN MEC for Education, Senzo Mchunu, is worried about the pending strike by teachers and believes that it has the potential to undo all the good work that has been done thus far.

Mchunu, his top officials, education specialists and teacher unions in the province will meet next week to discuss the department’s preparations for the final exams.

Other issues to be tackled during the two-day meeting are the state of teaching and learning and how much of the syllabuses schools have been able to cover.

Mchunu voiced his concern about the looming strike in a statement released by his department yesterday.

The South African Democratic Teachers’ Union (Sadtu) — the biggest teachers’ union in the country — is expected to announce tomorrow whether or not it will join the public servants’ strike.

The proposed strike is over a wage increase dispute. with the bargaining council.

According to media reports, the strike is expected to begin on Thursday.

Like Sadtu, other teacher unions have told The Witness that they are conducting ballots to find out from their members whether or not they should go on strike.

By last week, some of the unions were already indicating that strike action is more than a possibility.

While the government has proposed a 6,5% salary increase, teachers are calling for 8,6%.

They also want R1 000 in housing allowance.

However, Mchunu believes a strike by teachers will only lead to the disillusionment of pupils, particularly those in matric, whom he said have worked hard in preparing for their final exams.

“We are therefore encouraging and appealing to those involved in the negotiations to come up with a solution that will avert a national crisis,” Mchunu said in the statement.

“We also further urge them to consider the child whose future hangs in the balance.

“We believe that the strike can still be averted and hope that those who are involved in the discussions will find one another and resolve the problem,” added Mchunu.

Meanwhile, the Democratic Alliance has revealed that it wants the re-establishment of education as an “essential service” in South Africa.

The DA’s KZN Education spokesperson, Tom Stokes, said the resolution which was passed unanimously at the party’s federal congress in Cape Town, is aimed at tackling head-on the “ruinous” effects of strikes on education.

“It has been clear for many years now that the unionisation of the teaching profession, while attaining real gains in terms of conditions of service for educators, has had a devastating effect both on the diligence of teachers in the classroom as well as the loss of teaching time and consequent cost to a generation of learners,” said Stokes.

He said that for this to happen, he believes teaching will need to return to a “child-centred” profession instead of it being teacher-centred.

“In order to do this we need to resurrect legislation that places the power of schools back in the hands of parents and principals and remove trade unions from the operational side of the teaching equation.”

However, Stokes added, mechanisms need to be created outside teaching time that will allow teachers’ unions bargaining powers with the government over conditions of service.

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