Senior ANC leaders yesterday warned that the ruling party would push ahead with plans to ban teacher strikes.
Secretary general Gwede Mantashe, the party's education and health sub-committee chairwoman Naledi Pandor and social transformation sub-committee chairwoman Lindiwe Sisulu vowed that the party would implement the plan.
The trio said the ANC national executive committee (NEC) lekgotla had over the weekend resolved to give this directive to cabinet, which is expected to implement the plan.
Although Mantashe cautioned against pre-empting decisions that would emerge out of the cabinet lekgotla, which is yet to take place, it is expected the NEC will hold sway.
Pandor is minister of home affairs while Sisulu is minister of public service and administration.
However, the party looks likely to first seek the buy-in of alliance partner Cosatu and its affiliate the SA Democratic Teachers' Union (Sadtu) before moving ahead with the initiative.
"We need to first deal with education as an essential service from an attitudinal point of view before we even talk about legislation," Mantashe said.
"Understand that when you threaten education, you don't necessarily threaten life and limb but you do threaten the growth and survival of the country."
The move is likely to lead to a confrontation between the government and teacher unions.
The National Professional Teachers' Organisation of SA (Naptosa) and Sadtu are opposed to the ANC's decision.
Naptosa president Basil Manuel yesterday said declaring teaching an essential service would not provide the "quick fix many are hoping for".
Sadtu general secretary Mugwena Maluleke said the move "is the wrong remedy" as this would not address the real problems in education.
Sisulu said: "The level of [teacher] absenteeism in education is shocking. It goes up to 50%.
"Teachers have to commit to changing their attitudes. There will be no progression in wage settlements until there is this agreement."
Among those declared as essential services are health professionals who work in medical facilities.
The level of teacher absenteeism in education is shocking
COMMENT BELOW: Do you think that teachers have a right to strike for their rights, or it's a good idea to ban strikes so teaching learners throughout their full school year become priority number one?