Edmund van Vuuren, DA Shadow MEC for Education, delivers his speech as the party’s Human Right Day march in Port Elizabeth. In the background are DA Leader Helen Zille, Provincial Leader Athol Trollip, DA National Spokesperson, Mmusi Maimane, MPL Veliswa Mvenya and DA Shadow Minister for Basic Education, Annette Lovemore.

The Democratic Alliance in the Eastern Cape is highly perturbed, even angry, that the school community, and parents in particular, are being misled by the intentions of Sadtu.  The union is compromising our learners’ human rights by denying them the right to a quality education.

The Democratic Alliance unapologetically supports the right of mostly under privileged learners in our suburbs, townships and rural areas to a quality education.  We are of the firm belief that it is a transgression to withhold opportunities from these learners, in particular those who depend solely on education to take them out of the clutches of poverty and towards realizing their own aspirations. Education is the foundation of all opportunities. Withholding these opportunities, for whatever reason, cannot be condoned.

Sadtu has shown through its actions and policies that it is only concerned with the rights of its members, disregarding the rights of learners that have been placed in their care. This Union should be exposed for its uncompromising stance.

The insensitive behaviour of Sadtu members, as displayed through their militant actions in last couple of months in the Eastern Cape, has caused irreparable damage to the progress of our learners and to the system in general.  Look at the Annual National Assessment and the Grade 12 pass rate as measurable key deliverables.

Sadtu in the Eastern Cape has left our learners on many occassions to their own devices when embarking on strikes or go slows. This union should be admonished by all and sundry who has education at heart, for leaving our children without any supervised care, whilst they are settling scores with their adversaries. Sadtu has in most cases shown disrespect to the parents of learners by not consulting with them, regarding the safety and care of learners when industrial action is contemplated or executed.

In 2010, just after the World Cup, Sadtu embarked on an industrial action demanding higher salary increases as offered by Government. This action took the teachers out of the classes for more than three school weeks, resulting in children roaming the streets with no educational activities taking place in our underprivileged schools.

In 2011, towards the start of the Grade 12 Final examination, Sadtu threatened for almost three weeks to disrupt the examinations if the 2012 post provisioning was not reviewed in order to include all educators as per the 2010 post basket. Luckily sanity prevailed, but our learners were dealt a psychological blow because they were not sure untill the last minute whether they would indeed sit for their final examination. Once again this is proof that the rights of union members are always considered as supreme, notwithstanding their oath to put the child first.

At the beginning of the 2012 school year, Sadtu embarked on a go-slow for almost three weeks, teaching only on Tuesdays and Thursdays, demanding the unconditional reinstatement of all temporary teachers, the withdrawal of the 2012 post provisioning and the dismissal of the Superintendent General of the Eastern Cape Education Department, Adv. Modidima Mannya.

Sadtu prevented teachers taking up their reassigned posts and/or to ignore assumption of duty letters.  Union members also threatened officials at most of the 23 Education District offices to vacate the premises or to bear the consequences. This action contributed to a paralysis of educational activities in the Eastern Cape.

The go-slow was terminated as a consequence of an agreement signed between Sadtu and the Provincial Government on 8 February 2012, agreeing on terms of reference regarding post provisioning. The capitulation of the Department of Education has not as yet resulted in any appointment of educators into substantive vacant posts. Our childrens’ rights have been compromised even further in that a substantial number of children are without educators and the majority of them have never been given the opportunity to get of the ground.

We as the Democratic Alliance are not questioning the existence of labour unions. What we are questioning are the modus operandi and the disrespect towards the rights of our learners, and in particular our underprivileged children.

Now is the time to say enough is enough, because our childrens’ rights are sacred and must be protected and jealously guarded over. It is also public knowledge that the Democratic Alliance in the Eastern Cape has left no stone unturned in exposing the wrongdoings of both the Department of Education and the militant teacher’s union, Sadtu. We have encouraged constructive engagement between the two adversaries in the interests of the rights of our learners.

We celebrated Human Rights Day, but unfortunately the majority of our underprivileged learners have not been afforded the opportunity to be in a celebratory mood.

Let us stand up as a collective and use all resources available to us to ensure that our learners’ rights are protected. HAMBA SADTU, HAMBA – VIVA DA, VIVA.

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