Will pupils join truant teachers in Cosatu's march?

School pupils in various parts of the country will be without their teachers on Wednesday, but the Mail & Guardian has been told that does not necessarily mean class is dismissed for the day. Except perhaps in Cape Town, where Cosatu leaders have invited children to join the march.

The Cosatu marches will affect schools in Cape Town, Durban and Johannesburg, as scores of teachers in the federation’s affiliate union, the South African Democratic Teachers’ Union (Sadtu), are expected to take part in the protest but classes should continue at most schools.

Education authorities told the M&G that most schools ought to have measures in place to keep pupils busy—at least for most of the school day. Pupils are expected to arrive at school at normal times. Those in higher grades would forming study groups and parents would provide supervision, in efforts coordinated by school governing bodies (SGBs).

Matakanye Matakanye, secretary of the National Association of School Governing Bodies (NASGB), said though the body supports Cosatu’s march it would ensure that schools remained open on Wednesday and that pupils would be able to go to class.

“Pupils in grades 10, 11 and 12 must group themselves and continue working on the work teachers gave them,” Matakanye said. “Then with pupils in lower grades, we specifically appeal to parents safeguard them the entire day.

Providing an encouraging environment for pupils is “how we can mitigate the consequences of the march”, said Matakanye.

Do you know where your children are?
The Gauteng provincial education department also urged parents to take the initiative in monitoring their children on Wednesday.

“Parents are encouraged to establish parental strike committees through school governing bodies so that they can monitor attendance at schools and assist with the supervision of pupils in case there is absence of teachers at a school,” said spokesperson Charles Phahlane.

“Their tasks would include attending to the safety of pupils and continuously interacting with [other] parents during the strike.”

The University of Johannesburg’s Centre for Education Rights and Transformation director, Salim Vally—who has a strong union background—said learning could continue without teachers for one day, but teachers ought to have put measures in place to support this. “One would hope that teachers leave pupils with exercises to do [while they are away]. Learning could and should continue in that way, Vally said.

‘We’re just there to march’
National Sadtu spokesperson Nomusa Cembi confirmed that teachers would not shut down schools, and added that the education department and SGBs were at liberty to determine how schools operated in the absence of the teachers.

“It’s up to SGBs whether to close schools. Sadtu will not close schools. We’ll only go to the march,” Cembi said.

Cembi added that they were still not sure how many Sadtu members would take part in the march. The “no work, no pay” principle would apply in Gauteng.

In the Western Cape, the leader of Cosatu in the province, Tony Ehrenreich, told the media on Sunday that pupils were also invited to march, confirming that teachers would be among the expected 30  000 marchers. “Kids and students are also welcome to march with us. The matters we’re striking about also impact on the children,” he said.

Inviting pupils to take part in the march drew criticism from the Democratic Alliance.

The party’s Western Cape spokesperson for education, Cathy Labuschagne said it was “worrying” that Ehrenreich was encouraging pupils to take part.

Follow the Mail & Guardian‘s coverage of Cosatu’s 2012 march

Bongani Nkosi

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