6 February 2013

South Africa: ANC Backtracks On Putting Learner Rights First

press release

The ANC is once again wilting to pressure from its alliance partners on the issue of teaching as an essential service. It seems the party is more concerned with appeasing its alliance partners than putting the rights of learners first by limiting teachers' right to strike.

Secretary-General Gwede Mantashe has reportedly stated that the ANC is not calling for education to be declared an essential service 'from a legal point' but that there should be a 'social pact' to stop disruptions and an 'emphasis on attitudes and behaviour'.

Just two days ago the ANC National Executive Committee (NEC) released a statement declaring that the NEC lekgotla had re-affirmed education as a number one priority and that the 'ANC and its government will leave no stone unturned in making education an essential service.'

Mr Mantashe said at the time: "We are a government party. We must think broader than trade union interests."

It is very disappointing that this new-found courage and commitment to the best interests of South Africa's learners lasted all of two days, crumbling against a backlash from the South African Democratic Teachers' Union (Sadtu) and the National Education, Health, and Allied Workers' Union (Nehawu).

The ANC has an unfortunate history of putting the interests of its alliance partners first, often to the detriment of the youth of this country. First they backtracked on the implementation of the youth wage subsidy, and now they are backtracking on limitations on teachers' right to strike.

In August 2010 a SADTU strike cost learners 12 million teaching days, according to the South African Survey 2010-2011. Last December the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study found that South Africa placed third last of the 63 countries tested. The Progress in International Reading Literacy Study placed South Africa fourth last of the 49 countries.

Our learners cannot afford to lose more teaching days. Government must stop bowing to the interests of trade unions and start implementing steps to ensure that learners receive the education to which they are entitled.

Annette Lovemore, Shadow Minister of Basic Education

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