Johannesburg - The DA has laid a complaint with the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) against the country's largest teacher union claiming it has violated children's right to education.
This comes after the South African Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu) tried to stop the annual national assessments (ANAs) from going ahead this year.
"The South African basic education system is failing our children, half of which are not able to read by Grade 3," DA leader Mmusi Maimane said in a statement explaining why the opposition party laid the complaint.
He accused the largest teacher union of undermining the constitutional right to basic education.
"Sadtu is holding our education system hostage and thwarting the delivery of quality education, jeopardising the future of our children."
A professional stance - Sadtu
Sadtu general secretary Mugwena Maluleke said the SAHRC had a right to investigate, but the union did not believe it was violating any basic human rights.
"We [are] taking a professional stance saying teachers are doing their work and children are writing their examinations... we don't see it as a denial of a basic human right for not writing a systematic test," he told News24.
"That test is not the test which determines whether a child is going to pass. It's a test which shows where the problems are in the system."
Maluleke said chapter nine of the National Development Plan clearly stated the problems in the education system which needed to be addressed. These would not be solved through testing them.
"We know what the problems are."
He said if anyone would be found wanting, it would be the department of basic education which had failed children by not providing toilets, laboratories and libraries.
ANA tests to be written in December
The SA Human Rights Commission confirmed that it had received the DA's complaint on Wednesday.
"The complaint only arrived today and it will be taken through the process of assessment with the view of investigating it," spokesperson Isaac Mangena said.
Last week basic education minister Angie Motshekga announced the ANA tests would be written in December.
This came shortly after an announcement they would be postponed until February after teacher unions complained.
However, teacher unions say the announcement the ANAs would take place this year violated an agreement to develop a new "diagnostic tool" to replace them.
The unions were Sadtu, the National Professional Teachers' Organisation of South Africa (Naptosa), the Suid Afrikaanse Onderwysunie (SAOU) and the Professional Educators’ Union (PEU).
The unions said the ANAs were not in pupils' interests and did not promote quality education.
Maimane said Sadtu's hold on the country's education system needed to be pried loose.
There seemed to be an apparent attempt by the union to "take-over" the department as Sadtu tried to dictate to Motshekga what to do.
He said the DA would ask the SAHRC to produce a full report on the extent to which Sadtu was responsible for the violation of pupils' rights; recommend the union desist from any behaviour which did this and make recommendations to President Jacob Zuma and Motshekga on mechanisms to prevent Sadtu from continuing to violate these rights.
The opposition party would also ask the report be tabled before Parliament.