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'Make learning an essential service'

By unknown | Feb 16, 2010 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

THE DA has submitted an application for teaching to be declared an "essential service", says spokesperson James Lorimer.

THE DA has submitted an application for teaching to be declared an "essential service", says spokesperson James Lorimer.

The application was submitted to the essential services committee, which falls under the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration in the labour department.

The committee is required, when it receives such an application, to follow certain processes, including calling for public submissions and holding a public consultation process.

"We will be participating in all these processes to ensure that our argument is heard," Lorimer said.

The DA's argument for making the application is that the Labour Relations Act defines an essential service as a "service which, if interrupted, would endanger or inconvenience the life or the health of people".

Teaching is not currently listed as an essential service under this Act.

The DA contests that, given the crisis the education system is in and the life-altering inconvenience this causes for children, teaching should be, at least until the system improved, made an essential service.

South African children received one of the worst standards of education in the world - a fact confirmed by a variety of studies, says the DA.

"There are many reasons for this, but it is certain that nothing can be done to improve the situation without first having all teachers in their classrooms for all the hours their contracts require them to be there," Lorimer says.

"But this is not the case in South Africa. While not all absenteeism from the classroom is caused by strikes, strikes play a large role."

According to a study by Tokiso, an independent dispute resolution company, the SA Democratic Teachers' Union, the single largest union representing teachers, was responsible for 42percent of all workdays lost between 1995 and 2009.

Actions during strikes included tearing up exam papers - following a memorandum from one trade union telling its workers to ensure that "no exams take place at any school".

"While the DA does believe that the right to strike is a key component of a democratic state, it is also a right that can be limited in certain cases," Lorimer said.

"It is limited, rightly, in the case of health and police workers. But the depth of the crisis . makes it necessary, we believe, to extend these limitations to teachers until such time as the quality of education improves significantly. - Sapa


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