sadtu has declared war on future of black children

IT IS certainly true that you can judge a nation or civilisation by how it treats its elderly, children, criminals or the infirm and so on.

IT IS certainly true that you can judge a nation or civilisation by how it treats its elderly, children, criminals or the infirm and so on.

The state's budget allocation is always a way of telling what a nation regards as priorities.

For example, there must be something seriously wrong with a nation that ponders whether it should spend R47 billion on a military aircraft - when its children are dropping out of universities because they cannot afford the fees and patients die in hospitals because of the lack of basic equipment.

Allow me to add yet another item to the long list of how we might judge a nation.

You can judge a nation by who it debates should be allowed to form and belong to a trade union.

Just as with the R47 billion aircraft we can tell which, between a perceived future threat and the certainty of the need for quality education, South Africa places the greater value on.

We are told that soldiers cannot have a union because they will be a security risk should they have reason to go on strike and a war breaks out.

So soldiers are prevented from having a union because of something that might or might not happen.

Teachers, on the other hand, have a more predictable life. We know that they will have to teach our children for about 10 months of the year and at the end of that period, prepare them for final exams.

Some of the teachers must prepare our children for the one battery of tests, called the matric exams, that will shape the rest of their lives.

Yet they can have a union. And can go on strike any time they wish.

Moreover, they can successfully argue against their pay being docked for having been on strike, like the South African Democratic Teachers Union's (Sadtu) Soweto branch did last week.

You might by now suspect g that I want teacher unions banned. This is tempting but you would be wrong to think so.

I am all for freedom of association and workers' rights to form associations that are meant to strengthen their collective bargaining capacity.

But I have to agree with the ANC statement last Friday that Sadtu's threat to disrupt exams made them "the worst example of a public sector union".

Sadtu has demonstrated many times (sometimes in one academic year) that they have absolutely no interest in the welfare of black children.

It sees its role as being that of obstructionists.

They defend teachers who sexually molest children and who come to work drunk or are indifferent to their work.

Sadtu has become nothing more than a late 1980s Congress of South African Students (Cosas). They think education is an irritation in the way of their business of politicking.

They are so juvenile in their thinking that the only difference between Sadtu and Cosas is the side of the desk or which they sit or stand.

Yet Sadtu is a recognised union and the soldiers must seek the interventions of the highest court to be heard.

As I see it, soldiers going on strike might have a positive spin to it. It might give peace a fighting chance.

The terrorism that Sadtu visits on our society - holding the future of most children to ransom - strikes me as worse than any foreign enemy can cause.

Sadtu has declared war on the future of black children. They are succeeding where Hendrik Verwoerd and his band failed.

They will stop at nothing to ensure that our children get as little as possible from their school day.

But unlike in the case of soldiers, there is no debate on whether the labour laws should allow them to do so.