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Cape Town – The SA Democratic Teachers' Union (Sadtu) has dismissed claims of violence at its disruptive protests last year which culminated in chaos at 81 schools across the province.

Sadtu also denied allegations its members destroyed or damaged property during the boycotts against the additional testing of pupils in Grades 3, 6 and 9 by the provincial education department.

The union was opposed to the annual systematic evaluation tests, accusing the department of using the results to “blame and shame poor-performing schools".

Between October and November last year it organised boycotts that resulted in at least 81 schools not undertaking the evaluations.

“Sadtu’s active opposition led to unlawful actions taking place, as a result of which the WCED (Western Cape Education Department) obtained a court order,” said education MEC Debbie Schäfer.

During the protests, she said, testers were “prevented from entering some schools, learners, teachers and principals were intimidated and physically prevented from writing the tests and property was threatened, in some cases damaged”.

But Sadtu provincial secretary Jonavon Rustin disagreed.

“As far as Sadtu is concerned, there was no violence and no buildings damaged. We’re not sure where the MEC received that information. There were protests at the gate, and at many points the testers were not allowed access to the schools, because not only teachers took part in the protests; there were students and parents there, too,” Rustin said.

The education department said Sadtu had been legally ordered not to disrupt the systemic tests commissioned by the department, and that it "must take all reasonable steps to curb any unlawful conduct by its members”.

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Cape Argus