SADTU will make an urgent request for a meeting with the ANC to seek clarity following media reports that the ANC NEC Lekgotla took a decision to propose to government that education be declared an essential service.
SADTU fully realizes the importance of education in the development and prosperity of South Africa and we are prepared to do all to ensure that our children receive not just education but quality public education.
The Labour Relations Act provides that a service is deemed to be an "essential service" if the interruption of that service endangers the life, personal safety or health of the whole or any part of the population. The LRA definition of the "essential service" is in line with the International Labour Organisation's definition.
The reality is that when teaching is interrupted due to strikes, it does not endanger the life, personal safety or health of the learners. The functions performed by educators (teaching) can therefore never be classified as an "essential service".
We don't believe that declaring education as an essential service will address the challenges facing education. We have said many a times that problems confronting education are systematic and multifaceted. Targeting one component in the system which is the teachers will therefore not solve the problem. Problems confronting education need to be dealt with in a holistic manner.
We firmly believe that if problems of overcrowded classrooms, school violence, inadequate infrastructure and learning materials and under qualified teachers can be addressed, education in South Africa will improve significantly.
The urgent issues that need to be looked at are the conditions of teachers. Giving a R900 housing subsidy to a teacher is demeaning the profession. Having no sanitation at a school destroys the dignity of both the teachers and the learners and is a violation of a human right. Dealing with corruption and decisively so will guarantee quality education and is urgent rather than enriching bureaucracy. Providing sport and recreation facilities, libraries and laboratories are the most urgent issues that need to be addressed.