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Durban - Urgent behind-the-scenes work was under way to resolve the conflict between Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga and the South African Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu) to prevent after-school and weekend classes from being shelved in KwaZulu-Natal.
So said the head of the provincial Education Department, Nkosinathi Sishi, following a declaration by the local chapter of Sadtu that its members would teach only from 7.30am to 2.30pm on weekdays, in keeping with the call made by its national leadership.
The union picketed outside the department’s Durban offices last week, led by its provincial secretary-general, Mbuyiseni Mathonsi.
Sishi said that if teachers affiliated to the biggest teachers’ union followed through on the threat, it would be “absolutely” detrimental.
Sadtu is demanding that Motshekga be sacked for “unilaterally” withdrawing a collective bargaining agreement that would have afforded Grade 12 exam script markers a 100 percent pay increase.
Motshekga said this tariff, which appeared in the agreement document, was a typographical error, as a result of the negligence of two officials who had been given final written warnings.
According to Sishi, Sadtu KZN had not communicated, in writing, its intention not to teach beyond seven hours a day.
“We have not yet lost hope, and are trying to assist the parties to eliminate their differences. We are optimistic the declaration (by Sadtu) will not be implemented,” Sishi said.
Next week, matric pupils will begin writing the first of their quarterly tests.
KZN Education MEC Senzo Mchunu recently introduced Operation Hammer, aimed at improving the matric pass rate, and said the classroom hours of the worst performing schools would be extended to 8pm on weekdays, and that extra lessons would also be held over weekends. Many of the top performing schools already follow the schedule.
The Mercury spoke to two principals who were at their chalkboards on Sunday.
One principal said his staff were not paid for the extra hours they taught, but that it was an act of “individual sacrifice”.
The other said if the teachers at his school heeded the Sadtu call, it would be up to them, but he was “hoping that somewhere someone will be rational and put the kids first”.