The unabating protest action outside Hoërskool Overvaal which resulted in a march yesterday is extremely disturbing and does not bode well for the future, said Paul Colditz, a chief executive officer of the Federation of the Governing Bodies of South Africa (Fedsas).
Colditz was reacting to the march staged by the South African Democratic Teachers’ Union (Sadtu) Gauteng and its mass democratic movement allies to hand a memorandum to the school’s governing body.
The protest started last week Wednesday on the first day of the academic year following the North Gauteng High Court ruling that went against the Gauteng Department of Education’s instruction to Hoërskool Overvaal to place 55 grade 8 learners. The department has appealed the judgment.
Colditz also expressed concerns that the protest may escalate and descend into anarchy reminiscent of the Vuwani debacle. Colditz said what worries him most is the protesters’ defiance of Minister Angie Motshekga’s call to stop their protest campaign and pursue the matter through legitimate legal means.
Earlier this week Motshekga visited the school to douse the fires and met teachers and representatives of the protesters to ensure school functions normally. She said those who were unhappy with the recent court judgment should halt their protest and join Gauteng Education Department in its appeal as friends of the court.
“It [protest] does not bode well for the future of the country. It has the potential to develop into a full-blown anarchy, people must respect the rule of law; the court has made a ruling on the matter and they must raise their objections through the courts and stop disrupting schooling,” said Colditz
“I was there on Monday with Minister Motshekga and we saw learners sitting on the floor because of lack of space. The school’s actual capacity is 598 while the learner enrolment currently stands at 610. Clearly, the school is over-subscribed, what must the SGB do in this situation?” Colditz asked.
He said the protest was fuelled by political considerations and was carried out by a few radical elements bent on disrupting learning at the school.
Meanwhile, South African Teachers’ Union (Saou) has laid a formal charge of hate speech and racism with the Human Rights Commission following a Facebook posting by an Aubrey Thamsanqa. The posting reads: “Please Zuma give us the guns to defend our democracy… ‘one bullet, een Boere kind.’
In a statement yesterday, the union said the posting was racist and intended to disrupt and incite murder. Said Saou: “the “matter has degenerated into a political ‘playing field’ which directly and negatively impacts the learners not only at Hoërskool Overvaal but all learners in the area and disrupts education across the board.”
The union also said it was seriously considering approaching the office of the Public Protector “to audit the leave records of those educators who have joined the protests”. The union said there was a strong case to be made that teachers who took part in the protest during working hours took “unauthorised leave and are guilty of deserting their posts”, that the teachers “have prejudiced the education rights of those learners who were forced to join the protest action”.
Such violations, said the union, were sufficient grounds for the employer to take disciplinary actions against the teachers who took part in the march.