DA: Principals 'left to fend for themselves'

The Democratic Alliance has questioned the department of basic education’s ability to ensure that the no-work, no-pay rule for striking teachers is enforced. This comes after the Mail & Guardian reported last week that the data necessary to do so equitably and accurately appears to be seriously flawed.

In a statement released on Thursday, DA spokesperson on education James Lorimer said the problem with the “no work, no pay” policy comes in keeping track of who was at work and who stayed away.

“In some provinces, strike registers were maintained in the period preceding and on the first days of the strike. Schools were instructed to submit registers of teachers present to the provincial department every day,” Lorimer said. “Shortly after the strike began there appears to have been nobody able to receive the registers.”

The M&G report last week was based on a copy of a 15-page document titled Strike Management Plan, drawn up by the basic education department. The plan is intended to enable government to apply the “no work, no pay” rule “consistently”, according to the document.

Strike plan
The plan refers to the “total shutdown” of a number of schools during the 2007 strike and describes the “specific processes” managers and heads of schools “must put ... in place to ensure the continuous functioning of their directorates and institutions”.

The processes include forms that school managers and district officials have to fill in daily, including:

  • A “record of attendance” with teachers’ names, Persal (that is, salary) numbers, “level/rank”, “time in”, “time out” and teachers’ signatures;
  • A “record of participation in industrial action” (that is, “unauthorised absences during industrial action”), with names, Persal numbers and “level/rank”;

  • A “record of attendance ... to be completed by all educators/officials who are not on strike but who reported to the nearest police station; this requires the signature of the police station commissioner”; and

  • An “incident report”, including “damage to property”, “assaults, threats of violence and intimidation”.
Managers are also required to sign forms identifying areas they consider “volatile”, that is, “not safe ... for educators and/or learners due to the actions/behaviours of the striking employees”.

The department told the M&G last week that while “there have been some difficulties [in collecting the necessary data on absent teachers] on the whole, we are confident that we will be able to implement the policy [of no work, no pay]”.

But several school principals around the country contacted by the M&G said they had never heard of or received this 15-page plan.

‘Principals will be vulnerable’
Lorimer statement said that he suspected the majority of schools have no registers and authorities will be forced to try and reconstruct who was at work after the strike has ended.

“Principals will then be vulnerable to intimidation when it comes to drawing up strike registers after the fact. The result may make it impossible to accurately decide who should have money withheld and how much should be kept back,” he said. “Principals and School Governing Bodies have mostly been left to fend for themselves with no information or advice being supplied by education authorities ...”

Lorimer indicated that he would grill Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga in Parliament to find out how she will be dealing with the aftermath.

“South Africa’s education system needs clear answers and leadership to stop a severe situation turning critical,” he said.

David Macfarlane

David Macfarlane

David Macfarlane is currently the Mail & Guardian's education editor. He obtained an honours degree in English literature, a fairly unpopular choice among those who'd advised him to study something that would give him a real career and a pension plan. David joined the M&G in the late 1990s. There, the publication's youth – which was nearly everyone except him – also tried to further his education. Since April 2010, he's participated in the largest expansion of education coverage the M&G Media has ever undertaken. He says he's "soon" going on "real annual leave", which will entail "switching off this smart phone the M&G youth told me I needed".  
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