05/10/2012. Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga speaking to the media on World Teachers Day at the SA Council of Educators' new offices in Centurion. Picture: Oupa Mokoena

Johannesburg - The SA Democratic Teachers’ Union (Sadtu) has gone on the offensive in the wake of criticism of teachers’ performance and an ANC call to make teaching an essential service, singling out Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga for her own “lacklustre performance”.

President Jacob Zuma, among the first to float the essential service idea, has since backtracked, saying he had meant education was essential to society.

But he remained critical of teachers who failed to perform and announced in his State of the Nation address that while the government would review the pay and conditions of service of public servants, starting with teachers, it expected a return on its investment.

In a statement yesterday following a two-day meeting of its national executive committee in Kempton Park, Sadtu called on Motshekga to “provide some desperately needed leadership and not play skipper to a sinking ship”.

Among its demands was that markers employed over the past two years be paid according to the collective agreement reached in 2011, which it said had offered them a 100 percent increase. It gave Motshekga until tomorrow to do so.

The union also slammed the minister’s announcement of plans for an electronic attendance register for teachers.

“We are yet to be told what the actual benefit of this suggested electronic register will be to the sector, in a country where significant numbers of schools still lack basic requirements such as libraries and laboratories, and glaringly lacks continuous teacher development, among others.

“In the face of such pressing needs, the minister wants to dedicate millions… towards policing the teachers,” it said.

“For far too long, all the ills and contradictions in the system have been blamed on the educator without a thorough interrogation of the role that all those bureaucrats play,” the teachers’ union said, pointing in particular to director-general Bobby Soobrayan.

A presidential task team on last year’s Limpopo textbook crisis had recommended that he be investigated for his role, but his “continued occupation of the office… will do nothing but hamper… progress”. Sadtu would intensify its campaign to remove Soobrayan.

Other issues Motshekga had not addressed included:

l An unacceptably high teacher/learner ratio, while temporary teachers were not employed in vacant posts;

l The continued existence of mud schools and schools without basic infrastructure;

l The non-payment of the rural allowance to qualifying teachers;

l Promotional posts at schools remaining unfilled;

l A department that was “infested with corrupt officials at all levels”.

It slammed Motshekga’s “self-congratulatory attitude” on the 2012 matric results, saying improvements had been “largely due to the educators who put in hard work despite their unfavourable conditions of service”.

The minister was not alone in drawing the union’s fire, as it also hit out at “emerging political adventures” such as Mamphela Ramphele’s launch of her political party platform, Agang.

“She has since time immemorial gone out of her way to take an antagonistic posture towards a majority black government, a spectacular antithesis to her so-called Black Consciousness movement credentials,” Sadtu said.

Daily News