Durban - The South African Democratic Teachers’ Union (Sadtu) only posed a problem in poorly run provinces, Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga said on Tuesday.
She made the remarks while weighing in on a discussion at an education research conference.
On Tuesday was the final day of the conference, hosted by the Research on Socio-Economic Policy unit at Stellenbosch University, and funded by the Programme to Support Pro-Poor Policy Development.
Motshekga said Sadtu was “more bullish” in the Eastern Cape because of the “culture of chaos” in that province, and within its education department. “Corruption plays a major role in destabilising the sector. Structures like Sadtu don’t create problems for the sake of creating problems.
“It’s about patronage, access to government tenders … It’s deeper than being disruptive for the sake of being disruptive … It is leadership in provincial education departments to a large extent. There is Sadtu in the Western Cape, why is it not behaving the way it is behaving in the Eastern Cape?”
Motshekga was reacting to an assertion by educationist Nick Taylor – former head of the National Education Evaluation Development Unit (Needu), which reports directly to Motshekga – who said poor management on the part of education officials and schools opened the door to being “ run over” by Sadtu.
The unit’s 2013 report, leaked earlier this year, revealed how efforts to achieve quality basic education had been undermined by incompetence and the undue influence exerted by organised labour.
“When I entered Needu, I thought Sadtu was a huge problem. And in places they are,” Taylor said. “But the more I got into the data… I began to realise there is a bigger problem. The biggest problem is the poor management in many parts of the system. Where management is weak, unions do what they do… They look after the interests of their members. And when management is weak they run over management,” Taylor said.
“There are places where the unions have got on top of things to such an extent that they seem to be irretrievable.”
Speaking to The Mercury on the sidelines of the conference, Motshekga said Sadtu was “sometimes right to raise issues”. She acknowledged that Taylor was right, and that Sadtu in the Eastern Cape was “giving problems”.
She added that provincial education departments “must sort out issues of corruption and patronage”.