The on-going and escalating public servants strike action and the lack the teaching that has resulted has a direct (mostly negative) impact on our learners. We are struck by the absence of a commitment from parties involved to develop strategies that put the learners first as this must surely be a central value that everyone shares. It is thus, in this capacity as a representative of those most affected by the strike action, our learners, that SEF frames the following response:
1. We acknowledge that teaching is one of the most important and most difficult jobs in the world.
2. We also acknowledge that the schooling environment in South Africa in particular is one of the most highly contested environments in the country with multiple (and often competing) agendas at play.
3. We fully support the irrevocable rights of educators and public servants to raise grievances about their salaries and working conditions through legitimate protest action.
4. We also believe that with these rights come responsibilities – and this includes accountability for one’s actions.
5. Finally, we acknowledge that many teachers would far rather be in class teaching than on the streets demonstrating.
As SEF we are deeply concerned about the negative impact that the teachers’ strike will have on the education of our country’s learners and in particular on our learners who are bearing the brunt of the protest action. Many educators are making plans to ensure that their learners are not prejudiced during this time and we want to commend them for their efforts.
HOWEVER, we make the following URGENT call to all parties concerned:
1. As obvious as it is, it needs to be stated that we call on everyone involved in strike action to recognise the negative consequences for the learners, especially learners in matric facing some of the most important exams of their lives. We also call on all concerned to hold fast to the long-held community principle, ‘MY neighbours child is also MY child’ and ACT ACCORDINGLY.
2. The definitive feature of the current strike action is an inexcusable lack of imagination and creative thought from all sides. We especially call for greater CREATIVITY and an assurance that the learner is instead put first in all on-going activities. The professed commitment to quality education rings very hollow when we observe the actions and words of many in positions of leadership. For example, there are many possible ways to strike that will NOT adversely affect the education of our learners yet still bring pressure to bear upon the state. We challenge the current lack of creative thought and call on parents, learners and educators to pressure union leaders and government to think differently – to pursue creative solutions to legitimate grievances.
3. We reject the curse of lazy thinking that bedevils the automatic default position of many union leaders. The declaration of “war” or threat to “bring the country to its knees” is infantile and completely counterproductive. War always entails innocent casualties and the causalities in this case are our learners and the futures’ to which they aspire to. This cannot continue.
4. It is simply NOT acceptable that our children are treated as bargaining tools at this crucial time of the year OR that any more teaching time is lost. We call on educators, unions and the state to immediately develop appropriate contingency plans over this period that will not compromise the future aspirations of our learners.
5. Finally, we call on a multi-year agreement to be reached by all parties that reflects the real value of teachers to the country’s development, promotes stability in the educational environment and includes performance related clauses that instil much improved levels of accountability in our schools.
In conclusion, the mark of a good educator and a good education is the ability to promote CREATIVITY and engender CRITICAL THOUGHT. By these two standards the circumstances surrounding the on-going strike action leaves much to be desired. We cannot continue to be led by the narrow ambitions of those who seem unable to comprehend the real negative consequences of their actions and who also fail to act responsibly to ensure that this damage is limited and controlled.
The learners of our country do not deserve the current treatment and lessons they are receiving at the hands of those in power and those who are entrusted with helping to define their future’s.
In hope of a speedy resolution.
The SEF Team