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Frantic talks to halt teachers strike

By LAUREN ANTHONY Time of article published Sep 2, 2013

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Durban - The final matric exams and the Annual National Assessments (ANA) could be under threat in KwaZulu-Natal as teachers embarked on a work-to-rule on Monday, which excluded invigilating exams.

This morning education officials in KwaZulu-Natal were scrambling to avoid a crisis.

ANA is due to start on September 10 and matric exams on October 28. Matric trials, in their final week, could also be thrown into disarray.

A senior SA Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu) official, who did not want to be named, said the aim was to “frustrate” the department into meeting their demands.

“From today there will be no extra classes for matric pupils. There are 55 days to go before the final exams. This will impact on pupils who are in the process of finalising their revision,” he said.

He said matric trial papers would also not be marked after hours. “We will work our eight-hour day. Nothing more.”

He said circuit and ward managers would not be allowed into schools.

“We will not co-operate with them. They must stay away. We have reached boiling point. We are not going to back down.”

Sadtu members picketing outside department offices handed the media their list of demands, by way of an explanation for their actions.

Among the 27 demands listed were: Filling the 800 vacant posts; payment of 37 percent in lieu of benefits to all FET workers; creation of new jobs for both teaching and non-teaching staff; and the disclosure of more than R175 million spent for teaching development.

Talks between the union and the KZN Department of Education have deadlocked, but another meeting is being held today.

Sadtu’s deputy provincial secretary in KZN, Nomarashiya Caluza, said its members had been informed of the strike action, which she said would “disturb trials”.

Department spokesman Muzi Mahlambi said MEC Senzo Mchunu had called a special meeting on Sunday ahead of talks with Sadtu officials today, where they will try to avert a strike.

On Friday Sadtu announced its intention to “embark on a drastic mass-based action which will bring this department (to) its knees”, beginning on Monday.

The union is calling for the immediate suspension of department head Nkosinathi Sishi, and chief financial officer Hlengiwe Mcuma.

It said issues plaguing the department had been highlighted by the union, including “incompetence on the part of planning, administration, and general management” of the department”.

The department had failed to honour agreements with service providers, or refund “illegally deducted no-work, no-pay monies” from more than 60 000 members, Sadtu claimed.

It is also calling for a forensic investigation into the alleged mismanagement, claiming that money intended for the equipping of classrooms in disadvantaged schools was diverted elsewhere.

The union also claimed that the department might have squandered R23 million on three-day matric intervention camps which should not have cost more than R8m.

“For two years, Sadtu has been patiently and in a responsible manner putting these issues on the table for deliberation and resolution that has been met with deaf ears from the HoD and the CFO and their respective offices,” it said.

Vee Gani, chairman of the KZN Parents Association’s South Durban region, acknowledged Sadtu’s right to put its claims to the department, but said parents were concerned about the impact on their children. “We don’t know what Sadtu plans to do but our children need all the help they can get. This is the last hurdle,” said Gani. “We all have the right to be heard and it’s their prerogative to do so, but our children will be prejudiced.”

Gani said it was time for KZN parents to take action.

“There are more parents than union members, but parents have been quiet for far too long now. They need to be more vocal,” he said.

“All they want is quality education for their children.”

Reginald Chiliza, chairman of the National Association for School Governing Bodies, said they hadn’t been informed of the work-to-rule.

“We’re the parents, the stakeholders, and they’re abandoning our children without giving us information. It’s sad. What will happen to those trials or assessments? They will be adversely affected.”

Chiliza said Sadtu’s demands could be legitimate, but there needed to be consultation: “The last time there was a national decision made to work-to-rule, the branch level teachers made their own decisions,” he said. “But when you question this, nobody takes ownership.”

Mchunu and Sishi could not be reached for comment.

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