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SADTU is perpetuating ‘Bantu education’

Mmusi Maimane, DA National Spokesperson
23 March 2012

The South African Democratic Teachers’ Union (SADTU) and the ANC have accused Helen Zille of racism for speaking up for poor learners who are forced to flee from the Eastern Cape to other provinces in order to get a decent education.

This allegation is bizarre. How can fighting for the rights of poor, mainly black, children be racist?

The real tragedy here is the perpetuation of ‘Bantu education’ by a trade union that cares more about the rights of its members than the rights of children to receive the education denied to their mothers and fathers. It is the tragedy of poor learners, in desperate need of a decent education to escape from poverty, who have been failed by an uncaring Eastern Cape education department and by SADTU.

The truth is that the only thing holding us back from redressing apartheid’s legacy of unequal education is the SADTU-ANC alliance.

Consider the facts:

  • The ANC-governed Eastern Cape has the lowest matric pass rate in the country (58.1%). The DA-governed Western Cape has the highest (82.9%).
  • The Eastern Cape saw enrolment figures drop by 88 000 this year. The Western Cape saw an increase of 13 000.
  • The Eastern Cape spent only 28%, less than a third, of its school infrastructure budget of R1.45 billion. The Western Cape recently built 30 new schools and 22 are in the pipeline.
  • Half of the state schools in the Eastern Cape do not have textbooks. In the Western Cape, R466 million has been budgeted to ensure that every child has every textbook from grades 1-12.
  • There has been a massive redistribution of resources in the Western Cape to the poorest public schools. This money is used for education and is not lost in corruption.
  • The Imizamo Yethu Secondary School in Thembalethu in George improved its pass rate from 27% in 2010 to 82% in 2011.
  • Last year the Centre of Science and Technology (COSAT) in Khayelitsha was ranked 9th best school in matric outcomes in the Western Cape. This is the first time ever that a township school has made the top ten.

When you compare the two provinces, it is little wonder that learners from the Eastern Cape are moving to the Western Cape in great numbers.

One of the greatest evils of apartheid was that it denied people freedom of movement. And equally evil was that it deliberately set out to undermine education for black South Africans. In a democratic South Africa, people are free to seek better opportunities for themselves and their families anywhere in the country, which is precisely what is happening.

The DA deplores the fact that education is becoming even worse than it was under apartheid in the Eastern Cape and in some other provinces where the ANC governs, thus aggravating one of the greatest crimes of our tragic past.  The Western Cape government will continue improving the quality of education for all in the province. And we will do it despite the efforts of SADTU to stop us.

If anybody still believes that SADTU cares more about learners than it does about its members, then consider these two facts:

  • SADTU was responsible for 42% of all working days lost due to strike action between 1994 and 2009.
  • In 2012, the first school term in the Eastern Cape was disrupted for weeks by an illegal teachers’ strike led by SADTU. For the duration of the strike, tens of thousands of learners received little to no teaching at all.

While the DA is redressing apartheid-era inequalities in education, SADTU and the ANC are perpetuating them. Indeed, they are aggravating them. That is the real issue here.  This certainly deserves a public outcry.

The ANC and its partners can make as much noise about the Premier’s choice of words as they like. The fact remains that learners from the Eastern Cape seek refuge wherever they can if they want a decent education.  All the ANC’s rantings and red herrings won’t change the fact that millions of children are being denied a decent education in our country. And it certainly won’t stop the DA from doing what it can where it governs to give all our children the opportunities they deserve to succeed in life.

This issue is not just semantic, as SADTU and the ANC would have us believe. This is a very real human rights tragedy which we cannot allow to continue. That is the issue.