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Johannesburg - Teacher unions were not impressed on Monday with the ANC's call to have education declared an essential service.
The SA Democratic Teachers' Union (Sadtu) and the National Education, Health, and Allied Workers' Union (Nehawu) said they wanted to sit down with the African National Congress and discuss the matter.
“We will make an appointment with the leadership of the ANC to understand broadly what the proposal is, because our position does not change,” Sadtu general secretary Mugwena Maluleke said.
“Declaring education an essential service is unlawful and undesirable. We will put a strong educational argument forward.”
Maluleke said it would not fix the problems in the education system.
“It will not change the corruption in education, which is taking money and benefiting senior management of education. That will be entrenched,” he said.
The conditions under which teachers had to work needed to be improved.
“Treat the profession as the mother of all professions and look after the conditions teachers work under.”
Maluleke said a teacher could not be paid R900 and then be called a professional. Nothing was being done to develop teacher skills.
“You can't put them in four walls and call it a classroom when there are no resources.”
Earlier, ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe said the party and government would leave no stone unturned to make education an essential service.
The ANC's sub-committee on education and health, which is chaired by Science and Technology Minister Naledi Pandor, would come up with approaches and, if necessary, mechanisms to ensure education was seen as an essential service.
Mantashe said: “We are a governing party and so we actually need to think broader than narrow trade union interest.”
Nehawu spokesman Sizwe Pamla said it was legally impossible to enforce the move.
“They (ANC) still need to convince us why it needs to be so,” he said.
“They will have to go to court and we know they would lose if they went to court.”
The Congress of SA Trade Unions (Cosatu) said the issue would be discussed among its affiliates.
A meeting would be held later in the week, spokesman Norman Mampane said.
The issue would top the agenda at Cosatu's central committee meeting later this month. - Sapa