Teachers head back to the classroom

More than 6 000 teachers in the Johannesburg region yesterday resolved to suspend the four-week-long ”chalks-down” strike after a series of meetings following Education and Training Minister Stoffel van der Merwe’s response to their demands. About 3 000 teachers met outside Regina Mundi church in Soweto yesterday where they agreed to suspend the strike for three months pending the minister ‘s response to their demands. 

For once, the Roman Catholic church hall, which has become the home of community and political meetings, was closed to the teachers’ meeting, despite the teachers’ claim they had informed the minister in charge about the meeting. Holding their meeting in the church courtyard, the teachers said there was a need to review their action while the Department of Education and Training is still looking into their demands. ”We are not calling off the strike but conditionally suspending our action until June, when we will assess the minister’s promise to meet our demands,” said the teachers’ representative, Veli Mnyandu. 

Mnyandu said the teachers could not call off the strike because their demands have not been met 1nd the conditions in black schools have not hanged. A meeting involving the National Education Union of South Africa, National Education Coordinating Committee and the Congress of South African Trade Unions was held on Friday to review the teachers’ action following Wednesday’s plea to teachers by Van der Merwe, urging them to call off the strike. Soweto and Alexandra teachers held area committee meetings on Monday where the strike action was discussed and the proposals from various committees were discussed at the Neusa branch meeting on Tuesday. 

Mnyandu said Van der Merwe’s response to their demands was average, neither promising them anything nor saying the minister was not going to address their grievances. Schools falling under the DET closed for Easter holidays yesterday and the teachers decided to resume lessons when they re-open on April 18. The teachers resolved to teach during the June school holidays in order to ”recover time that was lost as a re¬sult of the strike”. ”It is important that we should only suspend the strike and to constantly keep knocking at the DET’s door,” Mnyandu told the meeting.

He said the teachers would not stop pressing their demands until the DET met their short-term demands, which included the employment of more teachers, the re-instatement of dismissed and retrenched teachers and their demand for a living wage. ”We should knock constantly at their door because while the minister says his doors are open, they are not open to us until he meets our de¬mands. ”There is a contradiction between the real man and the doors that he says are open,” he said. 

He said Neusa has decided to give the minister a time limit to meet their demands because ”this government has been talking about reform for many years”. He told the meeting that teachers will call a regional meeting in June to review progress made by the minister to meet their demands. ”We don’t want to be told by the government that our demands are still being considered. We want to see the fruit of our labour now. ”We know there is money in South Africa so we can’t be told about the budget. ”South Africa fought in Angola and Namibia, spending about R3-million a day, and there are spies who are paid to do apartheid’s dirty work to show that the government is misusing money.” 

The teachers also decided to embark on a defiance campaign to force the DET to meet their demands within the time limit given. The teachers resolved that there must be no class visits by inspectors, subject advisors, heads of department and school principals. Teachers will also not attend refre¬shal courses organised by the DET. The DET time table would no longer be followed and all schools will draft their own to make up for time lost; principals and their deputies should also have classes to teach and teaching periods should be allocated evenly. 

”Teaching less periods will mean creating employment for our colleagues who are in the street,” said Mnyandu. While it is important to have lesson preparation, the teachers resolved that the record book or green file will be used optionally as it ”created unne¬cessary work load”. Phillip Molefe

This article originally appeared in the Weekly Mail.

 

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