Mugwena Maluleke

Sadtu is pushing for curriculum changes to reflect the liberation struggle, writes Mugwena Maluleke

The South African Democratic Teachers’ Union (Sadtu) is not only a working-class trade union, but it is also a professional association of revolutionary teachers who remember the rich history of this country, and who are strongly determined to pass on their knowledge to all our young compatriots.

Sadtu is affiliated to Cosatu and is allied with the ANC, the SACP and the South African National Civic Association (Sanco).

Sadtu was established in 1990, in the presence of Nelson Mandela, following a directive from the ANC under teacher Oliver Tambo given in the late 1980s during the preparation of the famous Harare Declaration.

As a trade union, on June 26 each year, Sadtu recalls the great stayaway on that day in 1950, called by the ANC and united structures of the day, to demand freedom of speech and association and most particularly to protest against the banning of the Communist Party of South Africa, the predecessor of the SACP, in May that year.

The June 26, 1950 stayaway was a follow-up to the 1950 May Day stayaway that had ended in the massacre of 18 militants by the apartheid police in Alexandra and on the East Rand that evening.

There have been many massacres in South Africa. As Sadtu, we would wish to remember all of them and remember every single martyr who died for revolutionary unity in South Africa.

We remember June 26, 1952.

The great Defiance Campaign started on that day, still against the banning of our communist allies, but now also against the pass laws and all of the odious apartheid legislation of the racist National Party government.

One of those laws was the hated Bantu Education Act, which came into force in 1953. Not only was the Bantu Education Act racist, but it was a scheme for racialised labour power, which was the essence of apartheid.

The Defiance Campaign was hard, but the liberation movement grew in the next two years as never before.

It became a giant in those years. Chief Albert Luthuli called this effect “courage rising with danger”.

On June 26, 1955, the Freedom Charter was passed at the Congress of the People in Kliptown in the south of Joburg.

As the democratic teachers, we have special reason to celebrate the Freedom Charter, which says, among other things, that: “Teachers shall have all the rights of other citizens.”

Teachers have the right to organise and the right to strike. No one should ever try to tell teachers or principals which union to belong to. As revolutionary professionals we celebrate the Freedom Charter for defining what education really is: “The aim of education shall be to teach the youth to love their people and their culture, to honour human brotherhood, liberty and peace.”

This statement of the Freedom Charter means that the aim of education is to bring up children to be mature adults, and at the same time, citizens of the country that is their own. In short, it declares people’s education for people’s power.

After 1955 and until 1994, June 26 was celebrated by the majority of South Africans, disenfranchised as they were, as National Freedom Day.

Now, we have a different Freedom Day, in commemoration of the first democratic election on April 27, 1994, but we do not wish to forget June 26.

We will never forget it.

The lessons of the struggle for freedom should never be put behind us. It is this struggle that created in us South Africans a common knowledge of what is right and what is wrong.

We as Sadtu demand the teaching of the full, partisan history of the South African liberation struggle in our schools, now and forever.

Loving our culture, we demand the teaching of children in their home language. Hating Bantu education, we demand a full education and not a second-rate education, for all, whether it be in maths and science, or in the humanities, or in music, dance and drama.

The South African Democratic Teachers’ Union is still on a mission. It refuses utilitarian education. Once again, we refuse a substitute for education that consists of markers, tests and rote learners.

The South African liberation struggle is not ended. It is still a work in progress.

* Mugwena Maluleke is Sadtu’s general secretary and SACP central committee member. This piece first appeared at Umsebenzi Online at