It takes courage to stand up to our friends
- Gavin Davis
- 24 May 2017 11:56 (South Africa)
We all want a world-class education system for every South African child. However, the truth is that some of us want it more than others.
Now I am sure that Minister Motshekga wants a better education system. But she suffers from the same problem that afflicts all ANC politicians.
She is compromised by the internal politics of her party and its alliance partners. She is bound up in a corrupt patronage network that prevents her from doing her job properly.
This is why she lacks courage when dealing with the number one problem in our schools. And the number one problem is that trade union bosses from the South African Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu) have captured our education system.
Now the minister knows this very well – it is the central finding of her Ministerial Task Team on the “Jobs for Cash” scandal.
She just doesn’t have the guts to call Sadtu out in public.
So it leaves me to report what Minister Motshekga said in her correspondence with the South African Human Rights Commission on the subject of Sadtu.
In her letter:
- Minister Motshekga bemoans what she refers to as Sadtu’s “hardened attitude” to measures to improve education.
- She accuses Sadtu of using policy matters as “"bargaining chips" to get its own way.
- She talks of Sadtu’s “antagonistic approach.”
- She says she is disappointed with illegal Sadtu strikes, boycotts and stayaways.
- She acknowledges her task team’s finding that Sadtu is the culprit in the so-called “Jobs for Cash” scandal.
You will never hear the minister say these things out loud in Parliament, or anywhere else for that matter. And you certainly won’t see her taking action against her alliance partners. She doesn’t have the courage. Because she needs Sadtu for her political survival.
We all know that Minister Motshekga is supporting Cyril Rampahosa to become the President of the ANC. And we saw recently how Ramaphosa had nothing but praise for Sadtu when he spoke at their Congress.
This is why the ANC cannot self-correct, even under new leadership. The uncomfortable truth is that, for as long as the ANC is in power, our education system will remain captured by Sadtu.
We need to start thinking beyond the ANC, to a new government under a new president. When a new government under President Mmusi Maimane enters the Union Buildings we will bring balance to the education system.
We think it is wrong that South Africa has the highest number of teaching days lost to strikes on the continent. So we will initiate legislation that regulates teachers’ strikes, so that no child loses their right to a decent basic education.
And, instead of weakening the powers of School Governing Bodies – as the minister wants to do – we will strengthen them so that they can help check and balance Sadtu.
We will also implement recommendations of the Jobs for Cash report, such as stopping the cadre deployment of Sadtu officials into provincial education departments.
And we will introduce bold new reforms to improve the quality of teaching – whether Sadtu likes them or not.
We will start by implementing the teacher competency tests and Principal Performance Agreements that have been blocked by Sadtu for five years.
We will introduce a National Education Inspectorate at arm’s length from government with the power to assess teaching and learning in the classroom.
Teachers who do not have the qualifications to teach – and there are still more than 5,000 of them in our schools – will simply not be allowed to teach. To bridge the skills gap, we will aggressively headhunt excellent mathematics and science teachers from all over the African continent.
And we will bring back teacher-training colleges to give teachers the practical skills they need to make a meaningful impact in the classroom.
Finally, we will give parents more choice in their children’s education.
For example, we are looking at the introduction of a school voucher system. This will give poor parents the financial muscle to take their kids out of schools that don’t perform and into schools that do.
We are also looking at the roll-out of contract schools. Because we think that private education providers and civil society should be encouraged to work with government to manage, develop and fund schools that are failing our children.
Sadtu will not like any of these proposals. But this will not stop us from implementing them to put children first.
A government programme that must be supported is the “Read to Lead” campaign to get kids reading. And, in this regard, we urge Minister Motshekga takes a leaf out of one of the best-loved children’s books.
In the Harry Potter books by JK Rowling, Dumbledore the wizard says:
“There are all kinds of courage. It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to our enemies, but just as much to stand up to our friends.”
It is time that Minister Motshekga stood up to her friends. It is time that she stood up to Sadtu. It is time that she stood up for the children of South Africa. DM
Davis is the DA’s Shadow Minister of Basic Education. This is an edited version of a speech delivered in the Basic Education budget debate in Parliament.
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