The Progressive Youth Alliance will not support moves to declare education an essential service and thereby curtail teachers' rights to strike.
"We are not saying education is not essential. But, we will never allow an attempt to try and deny teachers' right to strike. This is unconstitutional and must not be allowed," Buti Manamela, Young Communist League (YCL) secretary general told journalists in Johannesburg.
The PYA's rejection comes nearly 24 hours after the ANC announced it would "leave no stone unturned" in declaring education an essential service in order to curtail industrial action in the sector.
The ANC argues that by declaring education an essential service it will lead to improvements in the sector by assuring teaching is not affected by strikes.
The PYA consists of youth structures within the tripartite alliance, including the ANC Youth League, Young Communist League, Congress of South African Students (Cosas) and South African Students' Congress (Sasco).
The PYA echoed Cosatu affiliate the South African Democratic Teachers Union's (Sadtu) opposition to the move, arguing that the right to education should not supersede other rights.
"We can never undermine a citizen's right to strike and protest. A balance must be struck between learners' right to education and teachers democratic right to protest," Kenetswe Mosenogi, ANC Youth League deputy secretary general told the briefing.
Government must assist teachers
Mosenogi and those present also argued that teachers should be assisted more by government if they wanted education to improve.
"You can't isolate these things. Teachers must be paid a decent wage to deliver a decent service. You can have the best school infrastructure in the world but you will fail if you don't support teachers," she said.
Manamela added the plan sought to address the symptom and not the cause of problems in the country's education system. "We are problematising teachers striking, but we are not addressing the fact they earn peanuts," he said.
But the youth alliance supports some of the ANC's proposals to overhaul the education system in spite of opposition to the declaration of education as an essential service.
At the ANC's Mangaung elective conference in December, President Jacob Zuma hinted at the reintroduction of school inspectors – something the PYA approves of.
"We think the introduction of inspectors will bring a sense of normalcy to many schools. We think that will be a good way to assess the achievement of government's goals," Mosenogi said.