Cape Town. 130327. SADTU setup a protest outside the Education department in Golden Acre Mall in Cape Town against amoung other the closures of schools. Reporter Michelle Jones. Picture COURTNEY AFRICA

Cape Town - Education cannot legally be declared an essential service, says NGO Equal Education in a new position paper.

The NGO had analysed the law relating to education as an essential service.

“There is a recurring debate on whether teaching should be declared an essential service,” the paper said.

The DA had emphatically taken the position that education should be declared an essential service and ANC politicians, including President Jacob Zuma, had recently raised the subject publicly.

According to the paper, an essential service referred, in law, to an economic activity for which the government was permitted to prohibit strikes totally.

It pointed to Section 65 of the Labour Relations Act which stated that: “No person may take part in a strike or lock-out or in any conduct in contemplation or furtherance of a strike or a lock-out if… that person is engaged in an essential service…”

It was therefore vital to know which services may be declared essential, and which may not, Equal Education said.

Many decisions of the freedom of association committee of the governing body of the ILO (International Labour Organisation) had repeatedly confirmed that education could not be considered an essential service whatever the circumstances.

The position paper had examined cases from across the world including Canada, whose Bill of Rights was perhaps most similar to South Africa’s.

“There is indeed cause for serious concern that teacher absenteeism and a lack of professionalism are a part of the challenge facing South African education. Equal Education shares with all reasonable South Africans a concern that teachers should conduct themselves professionally and diligently, and that teaching should be to a high standard.”

Equal Education said a great deal of discussion and hard work was needed in order to ensure that this happened in South Africa.

Meanwhile, about 50 members of the SA Democratic Teachers’ Union (Sadtu) picketed outside the Western Cape Education Department yesterday afternoon. They called for Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga, Basic Education director-general Bobby Soobrayan and Education MEC Donald Grant to be fired.

Sadtu provincial chairman Bongani Mcoyana said the picket was part of rolling mass action by the union across the country to “send a message to the employers that we are sick and tired”.

The teachers raised the issues of:

* Payment of Grade 12 markers.

* Reduction of class sizes.

* School closures.

* Improvement of infrastructure at schools.

Sadtu provincial secretary Jonovan Rustin said: “We decided nationally that the national minister and the director-general are not working in the interest of education. We want smaller class sizes, sufficient infrastructure, to ensure we have libraries in our schools. We want to make sure our kids get the best education possible.”

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Cape Times