The provincial government has caved in to union pressure which is a further setback to the state of education in the Eastern Cape. As a result of the compromise made between the Eastern Cape provincial government and unions including Sadtu and Nehawu today. Education in the Eastern Cape is not the winner and the interest of the unions has once more been put ahead of our learners.

An agreement was also made that the redeployment of additional teachers will be put on hold until such time that a bargaining chamber has been resuscitated to discuss the future of additional educators. The impact of this is that more than 5 500 posts that were supported to be filled through redeployment will remain vacant until a decision is taken by the relevant stakeholders in the bargaining chamber. We do not know when this will happen. This means that there will not be a teacher in each and every classroom in the Eastern Cape.

Some 4000 court-appointed temporary educators whose contracts came to an end on 31 December 2011 will be unconditionally reinstated, even those who are unqualified. This implies that permanent educators who were appointed in those positions will now have to vacate these posts.

Currently the Department of Education is spending 90% of its R24.6 billion budget for compensation of employees. Today’s agreement means that additional cost pressures will be placed on the budget which will push up expenditure on salaries to around 95% of the total budget. This will result in even less service delivery to schools. This is not in the interest of education.

The situation after today meetings is actually worse than before.

However, we do support the appointment of foreign national teachers, who do not have their professional teaching qualifications, to the rural areas of the province. These teachers have degrees in relevant subjects such as Maths and Science, and they are willing to work in areas where those with professional qualifications don’t want to go. We applaud this.

We hope for the department’s sake that these decisions will not rebound and that the Department of Education and Sadtu will find time to sort out their differences in the interest of this beleaguered department.