Durban - The ANC is expected to reveal a plan on Monday to make teaching an essential service, following a decision taken at its national executive committee lekgotla which has angered teacher unions.

The Sunday Times reported that insiders, who attended the lekgotla, held from Thursday to Saturday, said the ANC had decided to move ahead with the plan.

President Jacob Zuma, speaking off the cuff in an interview televised in mid-January, said teaching should be declared an essential service if this was the only way to ensure that wayward teachers did not compromise education.

This would mean teachers would not be allowed to strike.

Sadtu general secretary Mugwena Maluleke said teacher strikes were just one small part of the troubled education sector.

“This is the wrong remedy. It only addresses strikes, not the causes of the problems in education.”

He said that the government should provide assistance to schools rather than target teachers’ right to strike.

It was not tackling issues of poor school infrastructure, pupils with difficult home lives who needed support, or teacher training, said Maluleke.

The National Professional Teachers’ Organisation of SA (Naptosa) also rejected the proposal, said its president, Basil Manuel.

“The problem is accountability - or the lack of it,” he said.

Strikes were always the last resort for teachers and did not happen often.

“It’s a bit of an overkill. We are prepared to talk about the accountability issue, hold people to account for the failure to do their jobs.”

He said Naptosa was speaking to people within the government to get a sense of whether Zuma’s proposal was “really the case, or a nice speech made to placate”.

Weekend papers reported that ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe had refused to comment on the matter, saying an announcement on the outcome of the lekgotla would be made today.

Mantashe did not respond to a request for comment.

According to the Labour Relations Act, essential service workers are prohibited by law from participating in a strike.

Essential services are those that, if interrupted, would endanger the life, personal safety or health of any part of the population.

Among them are nursing, medical and paramedical services, emergency health services and the provision of emergency health facilities, correctional services, services required for the functioning of the courts, the SAPS, and the supply and distribution of water.

The Mercury