Clean out Sadtu’s mini mafias

CityPress - - Business - Terry Bell busi­ness@city­press.co.za

The ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem is in cri­sis. Se­nior ed­u­ca­tor posts in some schools have been sold by un­scrupu­lous union mem­bers, of­ten work­ing to­gether with ed­u­ca­tion de­part­ment of­fi­cials; re­cent stud­ies re­veal that many teach­ers re­spon­si­ble for tu­ition in English do not even have the vo­cab­u­lary ex­pected of Grade 3 learn­ers; and, in many schools, less than half the cur­ricu­lum is cov­ered by the end of every year.

These are care­fully re­searched facts. Yet the re­ac­tion to them by the SA Demo­cratic Teach­ers’ Union (Sadtu) has been de­nial, ac­com­pa­nied by of­ten vo­cif­er­ous ac­cu­sa­tions of po­lit­i­cal con­spir­a­cies and “union-bash­ing”.

Still the largest teach­ers’ union in South Africa, Sadtu should know bet­ter, es­pe­cially since it has faced these re­al­i­ties for years.

The tac­tic of de­nial and gen­er­alised ac­cu­sa­tions about union-bash­ing merely makes it eas­ier for the union-bash­ers to sound rea­son­able. It also opens up the way for gov­ern­ment to in­tro­duce re­forms that may se­ri­ously un­der­mine union or­gan­i­sa­tion.

This much is clear from the fi­nal re­port and rec­om­men­da­tions of the min­is­te­rial task team that in­ves­ti­gated al­le­ga­tions about the selling of posts in the ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem.

Most wor­ry­ing is that all unions are tarred with the same brush; all union or­gan­i­sa­tion seems to be re­garded as a prob­lem.

How­ever, there has so far not been a sin­gle re­ported case of union mem­bers out­side of Sadtu be­ing in­volved in such prac­tices. Which does not mean that all Sadtu mem­bers and branches are cor­rupt, merely that in many ar­eas, el­e­ments of this union are be­hav­ing like “mini mafias”.

This seems to be aided by the fact that the union is po­lit­i­cally con­nected through the ANCled al­liance that ad­mits to prob­lems of “cadre de­ploy­ment”. Po­lit­i­cal favours and nepo­tism all too of­ten lead to greater cor­rup­tion.

Although the task team re­port is, in some re­gards, quite se­ri­ously flawed, it re­veals the fright­en­ing ex­tent of the prob­lem, not­ing that “the de­part­ment of ba­sic ed­u­ca­tion has lost con­trol of two-thirds of the coun­try”.

And it ad­mits that “ed­u­ca­tion of­fi­cials are in im­plicit col­lu­sion with the unions to main­tain a con­spir­acy of si­lence about the prac­tice of buy­ing and selling posts”.

“But we are the vic­tims of this prac­tice of cadre de­ploy­ment, and the buy­ing and selling of posts,” say mem­bers of the other unions.

The Na­tional Pro­fes­sional Teach­ers’ Or­gan­i­sa­tion of SA (Nap­tosa) has pro­duced a de­tailed, nine-page re­sponse to the task team re­port. It calls for “deeper, more pointed in­ves­ti­ga­tions” to be car­ried out.

The SA Teach­ers’ Union, bet­ter known by its Afrikaans acro­nym, Saou, has also re­sponded, along much the same lines. And chief ex­ec­u­tive Chris Klop­per wants fur­ther con­sul­ta­tion on the re­port and “where nec­es­sary, col­lec­tive ne­go­ti­a­tions”.

Nap­tosa ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor Basil Manuel stresses that his union feels that “in­ves­ti­ga­tions should not be lim­ited to schools, but should ex­tend to pro­vin­cial and district of­fices, and all of­fi­cials at all lev­els”.

This is es­sen­tial, since even the lim­ited investigation by the task team makes it clear that the level of col­lu­sion and cor­rup­tion ex­tends through­out the sys­tem.

The main ques­tion now is whether the po­lit­i­cal will ex­ists to fur­ther pur­sue in­ves­ti­ga­tions and, above all, to act fairly and firmly.

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