Will making teaching an essential service prevent teachers from striking?

We know that teaching is essential but is it an essential service?

The answer is no, The Labour Relations Act defines essential service as one that if interrupted would endanger the life, personal safety or health or part of or all of the population.

The question is though, and this is a question and a request by the Democratic Alliance (DA) in their call for teaching to be made an essential service.

General Secretary of South African Democratic Teachers Union (SADTU), Mugwena Maluleke, and DA deputy education spokeswoman, Nomsa Tarabella-Marchesi, spoke to Africa Melane and weighed in on the matter.

Tarabella-Marchesi says they are calling for teaching to be an essential service, especially during strike action.

When you have learners at school and the teachers go on strike, and that means that the entire staff at that stage is entitled to all go and leave their learners abandoned without supervision. Therefore compromising their safety and security.

Nomsa Tarabella-Marchesi, DA deputy education spokeswoman

So what we are actually advocating for is that there have to be a number of teachers that will stay behind and make sure that there is safety and security and the learners are looked after. That there is adult supervision irrespective of the duration of the strike.

Nomsa Tarabella-Marchesi, DA deputy education spokeswoman

She adds that they have been looking at legislation and regulating around this as well as meeting with the Essential Service Committee around people actually staying behind and ensuring the well being of learners.

We have a provision within the Labour Law that actually allows that.

Nomsa Tarabella-Marchesi, DA deputy education spokeswoman

She adds that in recent times there have been learners who stabbed each other during strike action and there are several other cases where learners were left alone during strike action.

READ:Should education be made an essential service?

Maluleke says they welcome the topic and it is important for people to understand the importance of education.

He says the question about making it an essential service as against what is defined in the Constitution and in the Labour Relations Act, sometimes when we debate these issues, real issues are missed.

First you want to attack a strike, however, you don't ask yourself on whether these things that are happening on a daily basis in our houses. When children are going to school, they are being attacked and there is violence in our communities. These are happening every day.

Mugwena Maluleke, Secretary General SADTU

A strike happens in five years, in six years and there is a collective bargaining process where an agreement is not reached.

Mugwena Maluleke, Secretary General SADTU

So we are missing the point if we want to protect the lives of our children and if we want to improve the quality of education, we must talk about what constitutes quality education and what constitutes a safe environment for the children to be able to learn.

Mugwena Maluleke, Secretary General SADTU

He adds that denying learners nutrition is one of the fundamental issues that have to be looked at,

Denying the learners parental care and parenting is something that we have got to look at and deal with it.

Mugwena Maluleke, Secretary General SADTU

He says, however, if there are 115 learners in a classroom, even if you declare education as an essential service, you will not have a quality education.

He says while they welcome the initiative by the department, we need to ask ourselves important questions like what is causing these violent incidences and why do people close down schools when they are not happy with service delivery.

Listen below to hear if making teaching an essential service in South Africa can work:


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