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Teachers' strike hit pupils hard

By unknown | Sep 21, 2007 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

Eric Naki

Eric Naki

The dignity of the teaching profession nose-dived during the recent public service strike.

This after striking teachers abandoned schools and behaved violently. They intimidated non-strikers in the name of fighting for better salaries.

There is no disputing the fact that teachers' salaries are low. Of course the government has to take drastic measures to improve them. But in the end those who suffered the consequences of the strike are the black schools where normal teaching was disrupted.

Those schools can justifiably be said to be forever on strike because teachers, and at times pupils, are always involved in various political actions that distract learning.

The June-July public service strike took place at a time when many schools in Soweto and elsewhere in Gauteng were already taking regular breaks.

This was to allow for teachers to take part in half-baked protest marches in Pretoria or at the education offices.

Solidarity protests - where all schools have to close for a day or two and pupils sent home - are a common feature in many of the townships.

Off course, this problem is not only confined to Soweto. It is a country-wide phenomenon.

There were also countless occasions when pupils throughout Soweto abandoned classes.

They boarded trains to the city to attend court cases of their colleagues as a form of solidarity.

While at least 15 days of schooling were lost because of the public service strike, the tally for the township schools is surely far higher than this figure.

The education summit proposed by the recent ANC national policy conference to be held before the end of the year is the only hope so far.

One hopes that the summit will come up with a solution pertaining to inspiring our teachers.

It should be nothing short of a strategy on how strikes must be embarked on without unnecessary disruption to teaching and learning.

Such a strategy could only be precipitated by a sober debate on how the culture of teaching and learning could be restored, while protecting the rights of teachers to strike.

The failure of the department's recovery plan is a lesson for all.

While the department says the plan is a success, the South African Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu), which represents the majority of teachers in the country, disagrees.

Sadtu says the plan has become a farce.

"The plan is on track. I thank the majority of teachers who have been committed to making the recovery plan work," says Education Minister Naledi Pandor.

But the minister also expressed dismay at the fact that some teachers had refused to be part of the recovery initiative.

Says Sadtu's secretary-general Thulas Nxesi: "The recovery plan is in disarray.

"Some provinces are working, others are not. The overtime payments for teachers vary from province to province."

Independent political analyst Somadoda Fikeni attributed the problem facing the education sector to the erosion of societal values.

Fikeni said that only collaborative efforts by all stakeholders will solve the problem.


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