Union ‘cadres’ in top teacher posts

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Durban - The influence of unions in the appointment of teachers to top posts will create “anarchy” in schools and an exodus of dedicated professionals, a new study warns.

The research, published in the Africa Education Review journal, warned that teachers’ unions “often” ignored their role as observers during the shortlisting process, which led to their members being “unjustly” promoted.

This comes after revelations (by City Press) of the involvement of SA Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu) members in a jobs-for-cash scandal, and the kidnapping of a Durban acting deputy principal at the weekend, allegedly to make her leave her job.

The study, conducted by Dr Thulani Zengele and Professor Izaak Coetzer of the University of SA, suggests that the interview process be outsourced to an employment agency.

The teachers interviewed by Zengele and Coetzer told of posts being filled according to participation in union activities rather than expertise.

“There seems to be a tendency for educators to become fully involved with union work in order to be rewarded with promotions, while teaching and learning are compromised at school level,” it said.

The researchers interviewed teachers in Gauteng, with between three and 26 years of classroom experience.


They spoke of union members being aggressive and intimidating in their attempts to sway the selection process, and said if the union’s preferred candidate did not make the shortlist, it would lodge a grievance.

“There is no fairness, unions influence uneducated parents, and if the SGB (school governing body) is strong you see a lot of grievances,” one teacher said.

A group of teachers from one school told the story of an experienced teacher who had acted as a deputy principal for nearly a year, but did not get the job in the end.

“This educator feels used. We now have a poorly qualified and less experienced deputy principal just because she is connected to the union,” they said. “People are no longer employed, they are deployed,” remarked another.

Sadtu was repeatedly mentioned by the teachers interviewed by the researchers.

The union’s general secretary, Mugwena Maluleke, said it could not account for the actions of individual teachers.

“As a union we will always stand for fairness and continue to do so. They are not acting on behalf of Sadtu.”

Asked whether Sadtu members acting outside the role of observers was not related to bribes for jobs, Maluleke said the union wanted to deal with “facts” which was why it supported the judicial commission of inquiry into the matter.

On Friday, the acting principal of Waterloo Primary in Verulam, Kaise Ngcobo, was abducted by armed men outside the school’s gates.

She was allegedly told: “If you come back to Waterloo, you will be killed.”

Ngcobo is a candidate for the principal’s post, and the governing body believes her kidnapping was related to that.

A prominent national school governing body association has accused the KwaZulu-Natal Education Department of acting unlawfully in “unilaterally” withdrawing the powers of the same school’s governing body to interview and recommend candidates for the post.

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The Mercury

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