The South African Democratic Teachers’ Union (Sadtu) is holding its ninth national congress at a time when violence at schools seems to be on the rise.
Last week, a male teacher at a school in Limpopo was arrested for sexually abusing boys. In the Eastern Cape, three male teachers from Ngcobo were also arrested last week for luring three boys to their homes under the pretence of helping them with their homework. Instead they were given alcohol and then raped.
These incidents are shocking but they are not rare. Something must be done by the government to stop abuse at schools. And by Sadtu, the biggest teacher union in the country.
It also has to come out with effective, lasting solutions to how the education system can be changed. This is a system that is obsessed with assessment, instead of acquiring knowledge.
In its own secretariat report, Sadtu alludes to this obsession, saying that the curriculum is not “fit for purpose”. That report goes on to say: “The curriculum, based on excessive assessment and accountability (ticking the box based on standardised curriculum accountability), is educationally and psychologically damaging to our children and cannot change the behaviours, hence so much violence in society.”
Given that most teachers in this country are members of Sadtu, the union has to act on this statement. As we reported earlier this month, the education system is putting unbearable pressure on both learners and teachers without giving impressive results in return. Some of the delegates to the Sadtu conference couldn’t attend because they were at matric spring camps organised by the provincial education departments.
It is incumbent on Sadtu to lead the way and ensure that it is having tough conversations with the minister of basic education about how things can be done differently.
With the power that it has, Sadtu has to do better.