The South African Democratic Teachers’ Union (Sadtu) has accused the DA of political campaigning after the party laid a complaint against the union with the South African Human Rights Commission.
Sadtu general secretary Mugwena Maluleke said the DA was electioneering and should focus on getting its facts straight.
At a press conference on Wednesday, DA leader Mmusi Maimane said children’s constitutional right to basic education was being undermined by Sadtu.
“Sadtu is holding our education system hostage and thwarting the delivery of quality of education, jeopardising the future of our children.”
He said Sadtu’s “strong-arm” tactics had succeeded in convincing the Minister of Basic Education, Angie Motshekga, to postpone the annual national assessments (ANAs).
“The minister has since reclaimed her leadership prerogative, which we welcome.”
The tests, which assess pupils’ numeracy and literacy skills, were scheduled to be written earlier this month.
But after union opposition, the department announced they would be written in February.
However, last week Motshekga said they would now be written in December.
Annette Lovemore, the DA’s spokeswoman on basic education, said there had been a slew of actions by Sadtu that undermined children’s right to basic education.
This included the union “stone-walling the implementation of processes and interventions”, which were aimed at improving the quality of education, including by boycotting the ANA and opposing competency tests for matric exam markers.
Lovemore said Sadtu had reduced effective teaching hours through “unlawful strike action” and was widely alleged to be interfering in the management of the education system.
The DA would ask the human rights commission to produce a report on “the extent to which Sadtu is responsible for the violation of learners’ rights” and a recommendation that the union desist from any behaviour that violates pupils’ rights.
It would also request that the commission makes recommendations to President Jacob Zuma and Motshekga on “mechanisms to effectively prevent Sadtu from continuing to violate the rights of learners”.
Maluleke said children would still write their exams at the end of the year.
He said ANA was not used for children to be promoted to the next grade and their rights to education were not being violated by Sadtu’s opposition to the tests.
He said the matter of competency tests for principals related to conditions of employment which had to be negotiated in the Education Labour Relations Council.
Maluleke said the union had not held illegal strikes.
“None of the issues they have raised point to Sadtu violating children’s right to education.”
The human rights commission’s spokesman Isaac Mangena confirmed that the DA had requested it to investigate the conduct of Sadtu in relation to the children’s right to education.
“The complaint only arrived today (Wednesday) and it will be taken through the process of assessment with the view of investigating it.”