Teaching is essential — Zuma

2009-10-27 00:00

TEACHERS’ unions hold varying opinions on the possibility of President Jacob Zuma declaring teaching an essential service.

He alluded to such a possibility in Limpopo at the weekend, where he and ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema addressed residents of Seshego, close to Polokwane. Zuma expressed his concern over the state of tuition and learning, particularly in black schools. If he was to declare teaching an essential service, it could have serious implications for the right of unions to strike.

Thobile Ntola, president of the South African Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu), indicated that they would not support the notion. Sadtu is not willing to compromise workers’ rights, he said. According to Ntola, there are prescribed rules and regulations along which workers are permitted to strike.

He said if there isn’t strong leadership within education, workers will continue to insist on their rights in the form of strikes.

He referred to problems in Soweto last week, where hundreds of teachers left pupils unattended to participate in a meeting about salary deductions.

The deductions related to the protests in 2007, in which thousands participated.

Ntola demanded to know what kind of department would deduct teachers’ salaries in the middle of end-year exams.

He says that the department should have deducted the money either in 2007 or the next year.

Ezra Ramasethla, president of the National Professional Teachers’ Organisation (Naptosa), said that referring to teaching as an essential service means that Zuma is acknowledging their importance. “He is aware that the county cannot be built on poor education … ”

Ramasethla doesn’t think it a concern if teachers are unable to strike, as other methods can be employed to solve problems.

Chris Klopper, executive head of the South African teachers’ union (SAtu), said that Satu supports teaching being declared an essential service.

According to Klopper, it is important that teachers’ labour rights remain protected.

Given the standards and conditions in many schools where disruption occurs, it would be viable to conduct an indepth probe into whether it is necessary to declare teaching as essential, he said.

Essential services refer to services that may threaten the lives, health and safety of South Africans should they be interrupted.



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