Chandré Prince and Dominic Mahlangu
BASIC Education Minister Angie Motshekga has been given an ultimatum by South Africa's biggest teachers' union: resign at once or we will render the education sector ungovernable.
The SA Democratic Teachers' Union (Sadtu) demanded yesterday that Motshekga resign with immediate effect.
Just days ago, the union called for Motshekga's director- general, Bobby Soobrayan, to resign over the failure to deliver school books in Limpopo and other provinces last year.
Now it has turned up the heat on Motshekga.
Sadtu said it was turning its back on her after she decided, without consultation, to withdraw the agreement that protected collective bargaining by teachers.
The teachers are also angry about Motshekga's plan to install biometric attendance registers in schools to track absentee teachers.
In a hard-hitting statement, the union said if the minister did not heed its call to quit:
ıIts members would work "strictly within school working hours";
ıNone of its members would be available to mark supplementary examinations;
ıThey would not participate in any department programmes or take any instruction from the ministry or department; and
ıSadtu would lobby the other public sector unions to withdraw from the three-year collective-bargaining agreement that was intended to keep the labour peace.
"We have reached a stage where we can make a passionate call to the minister to do the honourable thing and take the road less travelled by submitting her resignation as the minister of basic education with immediate effect," Sadtu said.
"We are hopeful that this resignation ... will have an annexure, [namely] the resignation of the director-general of the department."
Motshekga said last night: "I'm disappointed about this trend of stakeholders choosing to communicate with the Basic Education Ministry through media statements.
"We are always committed and available to meet and discuss any concerns raised by unions, as we regularly do."
The department would not comment yesterday on the union's threats to disrupt teaching.
The 2012 academic year was a difficult one for Motshekga, with her department repeatedly making the news for all the wrong reasons.
The biggest failure was the Limpopo textbooks saga.
Educationist Mary Metcalfe was asked to compile a report on the debacle and she found that on July 3, when 98% of books were said to be in schools, only 48% of them had, in fact, been delivered.
Motshekga came under fire from her own party, the ANC, over the failure to deliver the books. The ANC Youth League said at the time that, as a "deployed cadre", Motshekga was unable to protect the future and meet the aspiration to open the doors of learning and teaching.
Her woes continued last year when pupils in Olifantshoek in the Northern Cape missed school for three months because of protests.
In the Eastern Cape, the employment of about 4000 temporary teachers was a matter that went to court, with several disruptions in teaching.
The education departments in the Eastern Cape and Limpopo were subsequently placed under administration.
While teachers in the Eastern Cape were fighting for their jobs, their counterparts in the Western Cape were fighting the closure of some schools because of a decline in the number of pupils attending them and underperformance.