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Should teaching be considered ‘an essential service’?

According to the Labour Relations Act, essential service workers could endanger the life, safety and health of citizens if they go on strike.

Picture: sxc.hu.

JOHANNESBURG - The burning debate around declaring teaching an essential service is being ramped up with the Democratic Alliance (DA) moving to try and persuade South African Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu) to support its call.

A government organisation is investigating whether it would be plausible to declare educators “essential service workers”.

According to the Labour Relations Act, such employees could endanger the life, safety and health of citizens if they go on strike.

The probe could have far-reaching implications as workers who are deemed to render an essential service have a limited right to strike.

Teacher’s union Sadtu has made its stance clear on whether teaching should be declared an essential service.

Sadtu spokesperson Nomusa Cembi says: “It’s not a threat to children’s lives because we’re not inflicting any injuries to their lives.”

However, DA Shadow Deputy Minister of Basic Education Nomsa Marchesi says the call is overdue as some teachers leave children unsupervised compromising their well-being and safety.

“To be protected from maltreatment and neglect, which is our issue. [As well as] Abuse and degradation.”

The DA is planning to visit Sadtu’s headquarters in Kempton Park on Thursday to hand over a letter calling on the union to support the proposal.

POLITICKING

Sadtu has described the DA’s latest move to try and persuade the union to support its call to make teaching an essential service as a political stunt.

Cembi says the DA’s attempt is pure politicking.

“They just want to be in the media space. They are politicking instead of being genuinely interested in the lives of learners.”

However, Marchesi says while they respect teacher’s right to strike some have shown blatant disregard for the safety of pupils.

“What happens to those learners if they find themselves in a situation whereby all the teachers have left, none of them can find food, the place is not clean and there’s no supervision whatsoever?”

The committee investigating the submission will be holding public hearings around the country in the coming weeks.

LISTEN: Should education be made an essential service?

(Edited by Zamangwane Shange)