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Sadtu: Boycott national assessments in schools

Teacher union Sadtu has resolved to instruct its 250 000 members to boycott invigilation of the 2015 Annual National Assessments (ANA) in schools, the equivalent of matric tests in lower grades. 

The union said this is in protest against what it terms an “ongoing attack on collective bargaining and lack of proper consultation” by Angie Motshekga’s basic education department.

The resolution to boycott the ANAs was adopted by Sadtu’s national executive committee (NEC) at its meeting in KwaZulu-Natal from August 26 to August 27. 

“The NEC had no option but to adopt a programme of action on all the issues affecting the conditions of employment, including directing all members of Sadtu not to administer ANA until such time that the [department] stops imposing policies that are not meant to improve the working relationship, but creating an environment that will compromise education and labour peace,” said the post-NEC statement general secretary Mugwena Maluleke issued. 

“The NEC resolved to call upon all members of Sadtu to defend education by not administering ANA until the [department] comes to the consultation table to deal with education matters in a responsible manner and not the antagonist approach they have adopted. 

“Such an approach is destroying the culture of teaching and learning, because teachers are tired of being undermined and are going to defend themselves with everything they have in defending education.” 

Sadtu said it has conducted an analysis of collective agreements of the last five years, “and concluded that the department was involved in well orchestrated low-intensity war against the unions”.  

Maluleke said the department “has failed” to consult unions on matters relating to the ANA. 

“The department committed publicly to engage the Unions. However, this has not happened because the department wants to render unions irrelevant.”

Consequently, the ANAs were now high-stakes tests while they were introduced as a diagnostic tool to assess the system, Maluleke said. “It has been reduced to an onslaught on teachers with no intention to improve the system.”

The department had earlier said it was all systems go for the assessments, which are scheduled for September 15 to September 18. About 8.6-million pupils in grades one to nine will sit down for them. 

“Principals will allocate teachers to invigilate classes that they do not teach,” said department spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga. 

“Provincial education departments will monitor the test administration process. [National department] will employ independent monitors to reinforce monitoring that will be done by [it], provincial education departments and district officials.”

Sadtu reiterated its criticism of the department’s push to introduce Mandarin into the school curriculum.

The department has maintained the language, which is to be taught as from January next year, is not compulsory. But Sadtu said this was a “disappointing continuous effort [by the department] to spin its way out of what is clearly an unpopular decision”. 

“The NEC took a decision that the union will engage on a programme to involve stakeholders in education including the Congress of South African Students, COSATU affiliates, Pan South African Language Board, traditional leaders, Education Alliance and the society at large against the introduction of Mandarin and its prioritisation over our indigenous languages,” Maluleke said. 

“The union will also discourage members from participating in the envisaged Mandarin training programme for teachers.

“Further, the union will convene a seminar that will include those from the academia to fraternal organisations and create a platform which will see us engaging on how we can prioritise our own indigenous languages.”

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Bongani Nkosi
Bongani is an education reporter at the Mail & Guardian.

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