The Leadership of SADTU
Comrades and Compatriots,
You have selected the most appropriate time to convene this Congress. Yesterday, (on October 5), we celebrated World Teachers’ Day. It was a day when the world celebrated and affirmed the enormous role of teachers and their relentless contribution towards development and transformation.
It served to inspire all teachers to strive towards making a difference in their schools and to look forward to doing their work with pride, dedication and a sense of duty that befits this noble profession.
The message from the heads of UNESCO, UNICEF, UNDP, ILO and Education International has clearly underscored the centrality of your sector in reconstruction and development and speaks directly to some of the major issues singled out for discussion by this Congress, this is, socio-economic issues, teacher development and creating a supporting learning environment for each learner. It says:
“As a catalyst for human growth and development, education is key to the achievement of all the Millennium Development Goals and Education for All targets. But without sufficient numbers of well-trained and professionally motivated teachers, we risk falling short of the promise made ten years ago at the World Education Forum to the world’s children and youth, because teachers are at the heart of the education system.”
Noting the importance of the teacher as a pillar of a successful education system, this year, the Council of Education Ministers has proposed that all teachers should celebrate not just one day in October but the whole month as a Teachers’ Month.
The Minister when she addresses you tomorrow will elaborate on the role of the teacher and teacher development in the face of serious challenges we face as a nation.
We thank the leadership of SADTU for inviting us to the 7th meeting of the supreme governing body of the largest and first non-racial teacher union in the country at a very critical time in the life of our nation.
This 7th Congress also coincides with SADTU’s celebrations of 20 years of struggle for the transformation of the education system and the creation of a better life for all our people.
It is therefore befitting to congratulate you on your 20th Anniversary. As the Minister of Labour, Cde Membathisi Mdladlana, said on the occasion of SADTU’s 9th Anniversary:
“We have come a long way since those early days when the painstaking unity process between different teacher bodies first began, culminating in the launch of SADTU. You provided a home for teachers both in their pursuit of their rights and conditions, and through your unflinching role in the struggle for the transformation of education and democracy.”
In spite of our challenges, differences and conflicting ideas, some of which found expression during the recent public sector strike, we have made serious inroads in the provision of a transformed, democratic and value-based education system.
But I must emphasise the fact that we look upon teachers, organised labour and other social partners, for support in ensuring the continuous improvement of the quality of the education system.
While recognising the contribution of teachers in our efforts to instil a culture of teaching and learning in our schools, we remain very concerned about time lost which will no doubt impact on our learners, especially in schools in rural and poor communities. We look to you to help us make 2011 an extraordinary year.
If we are to achieve our desired learning outcomes, in the coming year we have to put in place interventions that will assist in stabilising the educational environment and improve teaching and learning in our schools.
As the Minister will indicate tomorrow, our Department is committed to implementing credible efforts to minimize the impact of lost learning opportunities that may have been compromised by the time lost.
Our aim is to implement these efforts in the 2011 school calendar. We therefore make an earnest appeal to all educators to become involved in the intensive teaching and learning programme so that we can work together, collectively and collaboratively to achieve the agreed learning outcomes for the education system that were recently approved by the ANC NGC in Durban (September 2010).
These outcomes we can only achieve by working together as government, organised labour, parents, learners, teachers and other social partners.
President Jacob Zuma has again reminded us in this year’s January 8 statement that “Basic Education has been tasked with the responsibility of ensuring the attainment of quality education in all our schools”.
Having raised serious concerns about “the academic achievements of our children”, the President called for “non-negotiables” in education, that “teachers must be on time, in class and teaching for seven hours every day”. President Zuma said in no uncertain terms that:
“Working particularly with the South African Democratic Teachers Union (SADTU), we will intensify efforts to build a movement for quality education involving learners, teachers and parents alike. ANC branches and structures of our allies, working together with communities, should assist in ensuring that these non-negotiables are adhered to.”
You will recall that pursuant to the non-negotiables in education, together with the unions, teachers, parents, learners and other social partners, we convened and agreed on the Quality Learning and Teaching Campaign (QLTC). All of us have a responsibility to fulfill the pledge we signed as part of the QLTC.
We express our gratitude to all of you for the sterling role SADTU has played in the QLTC and in mobilizing communities around it. As we express our support to the 7th Congress of your progressive teacher union, we want to acknowledge the support SADTU has provided to our Department over the years.
Lastly, in all our efforts, our guiding spirit should be the ANC NGC’s directive urging all of us that:
“It is our responsibility, wherever we may be located, to embrace the core message of renewal and live the values of our movement at all times.”
We wish you a successful Congress and look forward to a renewed commitment to the delivery of free quality public education in the best interest of our children, ‘the inheritors of our future’.
I thank you.