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Strike two for teachers

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Strike two for teachers

by Aly Verbaan
13 Jun 2007
Peoples Post
Peoples Post

Disruptions at schools are set to continue after the South African Democratic Teachers' Union (Sadtu) yesterday rejected a salary adjustment proposal by the government of 7,25%.

Scores of teachers have been picketing outside southern suburbs schools every morning for the past week, with an estimated 50% of teachers joining in the nationwide strike by public servants.

Private schools in the area have not been affected by the industrial action, which began on Friday, 1 June.

...government schools have virtually ground to a halt

But government schools have virtually ground to a halt, with parents having the option of keeping their children at home, although students writing Grade 12 exams have largely been accommodated.

The perception that certain schools would not participate in the strike was dispelled when the likes of Rustenburg Girls' High, Rondebosch Boys' High and Westerford High reported that up to half their staff were striking on certain days.

All had the support of their governing bodies and principals, some of whom participated in picketing outside school hours.

Pinelands High School principal Tony Reeler told People's Post that he backed his staff's cause "one hundred percent". He said he was concerned about the fact that the number of school leavers choosing the teaching profession had dropped dramatically over the past decade - and continued to do so.

...those who would perhaps have become educators will choose another profession or take their skills elsewhere.

"Who is going to teach if none of the children want to teach? The reality is that the pay and the working conditions mean that those who would perhaps have become educators will choose another profession or take their skills elsewhere."

But Gert Witbooi, spokesperson for provincial MEC for Education Cameron Dugmore, denied this was the case. "There is no crisis. The system has changed over the years, but the numbers of students entering the teaching profession have not dropped. No crisis exists."

Rustenburg Girls' High School principal Susan Schnettler says the Education Department's statistics could not be accurate. "We see the numbers of educators dwindling before our eyes every day and it is definitely impacting on the education system. The government has clearly taken the ostrich approach on this one."

A further statistical discrepancy exists between the number of teachers reported by the department to be on strike and the number the schools are recording.

It is understood that this disparity could be due to the fact that most former "Model C" schools employed teachers hired by school governing bodies, in addition to government teachers, in an approximately 50-50 ratio.

...all other sectors, such as the clothing, food and metal industries have been called upon to demonstrate their solidarity with their civil servant counterparts...

Many of the governing bodies' staff are striking in solidarity with their government counterparts, but are not included in the Education Department's statistics. The situation at schools is therefore worse than indicated by the department's reports.

Principal of Rondebosch Boys' High School, Martin Barker, said that although governing body teachers will not receive the negotiated wage increase finally settled upon, it will affect them in the long-term as their salaries are calculated according to the government's remuneration of its teachers.

Wednesday has been earmarked for a mass demonstration, with the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) calling for all its affiliate organisations and other unions in the public sector to down tools after lunch.

Cosatu spokesperson Tony Ehrenreich told People's Post that "all other sectors, such as the clothing, food and metal industries have been called upon to demonstrate their solidarity with their civil servant counterparts by joining a mass rally in the city centre on Wednesday at 13:00".

At the time of going to print, many schools in the southern suburbs were in meetings to determine their plan of action for Wednesday. Most, however, said their teachers could not strike for much longer - not because they didn't support the cause - but simply because they could not afford to lose more pay. Pupils are still in the dark as to when they will write their mid-year exams.

Schools are scheduled to close for the winter holidays in three weeks' time.

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