Cosatu’s Call for Student and Teacher Protest Irresponsible

Cathy Labuschagne MPP

DA Western Cape  spokesperson for Education

Cosatu’s call on teachers unions and students in grades 10 to 12 to protest at Parliament against education inequality is totally irresponsible.

It appears that Cosatu has once again decided to promote actions that run counter to public, and in this case, student interest.

The strike is reported to be motivated by the need to publically highlight the inequality of the education system and calls for Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga director-general, Bobby Soobrayan’s resignation.

Tony Ehrenreich, Cosatu provincial secretary believes “everyone should make a sacrifice of one day to highlight the inadequacy of their schools.” There is nothing sacrificial about encouraging truancy and absenteeism to protest. Those students who choose to stay in school on Wednesday will be sitting in classrooms without teachers, who have instead been encouraged to protest.

South Africa’s education system is already under extraordinary strain. To promote protest action while provincial and national departments attempt to battle teacher’s accountable for missed days, and student truancy, is simply counterproductive.

We support the Department of Basic Education’s statements that South African Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu) members protesting at parliament today open themselves up to possible disciplinary action and loss in pay.

Such protest action infringes on rights that are enshrined in the Bill of Rights, that being the right to a basic education.  While inadequacies in the education should certainly be highlighted and addressed, the manner in which this is done should be professional and responsible. Teaching is a profession and it should therefore be expected that teachers conduct themselves in a professional manner.

I agree, as Jonovan Rustin from Sadtu has said, that “we need to start speaking about equality and equalisation,” but picketing during schools hours is not the way forward.

I echo Education MEC Donald Grant’s comments that this march is not within the best interests of students and certainly exposes them to the risks of lost school hours.

It is irresponsible of Cosatu to call on students to engage in any form of protest, especially during school hours. By doing so, it places students at risk, and will only exacerbate already existing problems in schools.

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