Durban - The country’s largest teacher union is unhappy with the public school calendar, proposing longer holidays so that teachers can get the breaks they deserve.

The South African Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu) is particularly peeved that the year-end holidays have scaled back in recent years.

“Where we come from we did not have to work until December 13 only for schools to re-open on 7 January the following year,” the union’s general secretary, Mungwena Maluleke, told delegates at Sadtu’s provincial conference in Durban on Wednesday.

“This is a matter that you need to debate.”

He said teachers spent most of the school holidays marking pupils’ work, and weekends preparing for the week’s lessons, so they deserved more holidays.

This year’s school calendar started on January 15 and will end on December 10.

In the past the year-end school holidays were longer but children still passed, Maluleke argued.

Sadtu appeared to be in a fighting mood at its conference, threatening to strike over a host of issues.

Maluleke said Sadtu had been patient enough and now wanted some of its concerns to be addressed.

These include incentives for teachers in rural areas, a housing scheme for teachers and salary increases.

“How can you afford to have a qualified teacher earning R5 000? We also have a situation where you find a teacher who is 48 years old resigning so that they can get their pension fund and be able to pay for a house,” he said.

“We are now awaiting a certificate so we can go on strike because we are not being taken seriously.”

Maluleke said: “The director-general (of the education department) can afford to take a holiday and go to Mauritius but we as teachers cannot do that.”

Sadtu wants a 1.5 percent pay progression, which would be on a par with other public servants.

Currently the pay progression for teachers is 1 percent.

Maluleke said Sadtu, with its 260 000 members representing more than 70 percent of teachers nationally, was very important to education.

“Anyone who has planned that they are going to fight Sadtu must know we will fight back. Whether you are the HOD (head of department) or the general manager, if you are going to declare war on Sadtu, know that you will be gone,” he warned.

Maluleke’s comments followed a statement by Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga in which she announced that a task team would probe the alleged jobs-for-cash scandal involving Sadtu members.

Motshekga had said the allegations were being taken very seriously.

“I’ve asked the team to advise me on the appointment and placement policies applicable to educators as well as other school staff which may require amendment,” the minister had said.

“I’ve also asked the team to refer any irregular or illegal activities to the relevant department for further investigation, if criminal to the SAPS and should disciplinary action be required, to the appropriate authority, for example the DBE (Department of Basic Education) or provincial education departments.”

Motshekga said the team would be led by education expert Professor J Volmink, who will be supported by experts in the legal, HR, auditing, and education fields.

Also speaking at the conference, the union’s KZN chairman, Mabutho Cele, dismissed as lies reports that Sadtu had been involved in selling posts.

“How can we sell a product that we do not produce or manage? That is not our product.”

He said the union’s role in selecting candidates for posts was limited to observer status to ensure that the appointments were free and fair.

Cele said, however, that Sadtu wanted its members in all the top posts because “Sadtu members understand transformation”.

He said the union wanted even the top leadership of the department of education to come from its ranks. “We will continue to deploy to the state,” he said.

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