Editorial: Laudable contracts, but will they work?

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A watershed deal was brokered last week when the SA Democratic Teachers’ Union (Sadtu) finally signed into legislation a new assessment tool for teachers in public schools. Considering how Sadtu has, for years, refused to sign it – while other unions did so four years ago – this is to be celebrated.

While it was Sadtu which called for the review of the current tool, which will cease to exist in 2021, the new tool aims to hold teachers, department heads, principals and their deputies accountable.

Sadtu is happy because it also takes into account conditions under which teachers work in farm, rural and township schools – or what they refer to as “material conditions” affecting their performance. This is not taken into consideration by the current assessment tool.

Sadtu general secretary Mugwena Maluleke says the old tool needed reviewing as it was easy to manipulate: friends could give each other higher scores during performance appraisals. That the new assessment tool deals with the loophole is laudable.

The question that remains is whether the new tool will yield results, taking into account the reality that we have teachers who are unwilling to teach and will surely want to exploit the clause on material conditions as an excuse for their poor performance.

In addition, a similar agreement was entered into by non-teaching staff working in the department of education’s district and circuit offices. Their responsibilities entail inspecting, advising, monitoring and developing curriculums in schools.

The question that remains is whether the new tool will yield results, taking into account the reality that we have teachers who are unwilling to teach and will surely want to exploit the clause on material conditions as an excuse for their poor performance.

To counter this, Cindy Foca, general secretary of the Education Labour Relations Council, a bargaining council set up to maintain labour peace, says the employer will have to revoke contractual obligations to deal with such rogue teachers.

It is now up to the basic education department to monitor whether contractual obligations will be adhered to and ensure that scrutinising professional conduct triumphs over politics.


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