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Cape Town - The ANC and government are to make sure education is declared an essential service, party secretary-general Gwede Mantashe has said.
Mantashe said the party and government would leave no stone unturned in their efforts to deem education an essential service.
But the SA Democratic Teachers’ Union (Sadtu) said it remained opposed to education being declared an essential service.
“We will request a meeting with the ANC to discuss the proposal,” said the union’s general secretary, Mugwena Maluleke.
Maluleke said declaring education an essential service would not address the real problems.
“It’s just a wrong remedy (for) the diagnosis. (Striking) is not the main issue, (it) is a symptom of the problem.”
Maluleke said problems with infrastructure, resources and teacher development had to be addressed.
Mantashe told reporters in Joburg that last week’s ANC lekgotla had agreed that a mechanism to monitor all-round accountability in the education sector be devised as a matter of urgency.
He said there needed to be an attitude change towards education.
“As a number one priority, the ANC and its government will leave no stone unturned in making education an essential service.”
Whether this would be legislated would be decided after a process to ensure there was buy-in and all sectors of society saw education as an essential service.
“We are a governing party and so we actually need to think broader than narrow trade union interest,” Mantashe said.
Science and Technology Minister Naledi Pandor, who chairs the ANC subcommittee on education and health, said the ANC wanted a commitment from everyone who worked in the sector to focus on the delivery of education.
“If (teachers) can commit fully to what must be done we are going to achieve tremendous success in the sector. So when we discuss essential services, it’s in that context,” Pandor said.
Basil Manuel, president of the National Professional Teachers’ Organisation of SA (Naptosa), said it was the union’s view that declaring education an essential service would not provide a quick fix.
He said Naptosa would not accept the eroding of teachers’ labour rights.
Manuel said that apart from the legal issues regarding declaring education an essential service, there were at least three other issues that had to be “properly ventilated”.
“First, the Education Department has, in terms of present legislation, the power at its disposal to manage strike action. It should apply the no work, no pay principle without fear or favour, and take disciplinary action against educators who participate in unprotected strikes and against educators who are found guilty of violence and intimidation.”
Regarding education being declared an essential service, DA MP Annette Lovemore said: “This must lead to a clear definition of the limitations of strike action by teachers, which will help protect learners’ rights to education.
“The decision by the ANC’s national executive committee that teaching should be regarded as an essential service supports the DA’s long-held position that teachers’ right to strike should be balanced with the best interests of learners.”