NAPTOSA’S RESPONSE TO THE SOUTH AFRICAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION (SAHRC) HEARING ON THE IMPACT OF PROTEST- RELATED ACTIONS ON THE RIGHTS TO BASIC EDUCATION
In response to the recent service delivery protests and the burning of schools in Vuwani, NAPTOSA, with other stakeholders, were invited by the SAHRC to make a verbal and written submission on the impact of protest actions on the right to basic education.
Mr David Millar (Deputy President) and Mr Basil Manuel (Executive Director) appeared before the “Hearing Panel of the Commission” on 13 June 2016 to present NAPTOSA’s response to the SAHRC brief.
Here are some of the salient inputs made by NAPTOSA :
•The right to education cannot be viewed in isolation – there are other competing Constitutional rights like the right to protest (sec 17) and the right to strike (sec 23).
•The manner in which the rights are exercised is crucial – if exercised with responsibility, and as intended, they should not affect the others negatively.
•The distortion of constitutional rights in the South African society must be addressed. People are quick to quote their constitutional rights without adhering to what the right actually determines.
•Schools are of the community and in the community and must of necessity reflect the heartbeat of the community – they cannot be divorced from the community and are automatically impacted if the community is protesting.
•For educators to separate themselves from a community would place them in most instances in grave danger. Their responsibility during these times is to protect their charges and themselves from harm.
•Much is expected of our teachers to right the wrongs in society. This is an unfair responsibility placed on them. Societal and attitudinal changes, to understand and correctly exercise constitutional rights, is what is needed in South Africa.
•NAPTOSA has sought to ensure that its members affected by protest action have a survival strategy to protect themselves and their learners.
•NAPTOSA annually trains its school representatives, the focus of which is on schooling and the rights of children and teachers to a safe working environment as well as the responsibilities of teachers to ensure the minimal disruption to schooling.
•Our members have always risen to the demands of the occasion and conducted extra lessons, weekend classes and vacation-classes where there has been a need to make up for lost learning time.
•Failure by authorities to act speedily in a protest action crisis exacerbates damage to facilities and the right to education as evidenced in Vuwani.
•Protests related to strike action, such as the public service strikes of 2007 and 2010, had a severe impact on schooling and access to education facilities. Schools where teachers were not participating in the strikes were often targeted leading to large scale intimidation of both learners and teachers - the right of association, the right to education and the right to a safe working environment were all violated.
•NAPTOSA as a union has never supported or condoned the violence, disruption of schools and damage to property associated with protest action. We have and are on record for attempting to ensure that minimal disruption occurs in schooling – examples of where Presidents of NAPTOSA intervened, in an attempt to mitigate the impact of protest action on education, were cited.
•Where NAPTOSA has participated in strike action we have strictly adhered to our principles, as espoused in our constitution, on the manner in which this right should be exercised.
•NAPTOSA joined the National Education Collaboration Trust (NECT), other unions, and officials from the DBE and traditional leaders to assess damages and encourage learners to go back to school in Vuwani.
•NAPTOSA has further joined other stakeholders in supporting fund-raising initiatives to ensure learners have textbooks and stationery in Vuwani.
NB. In addition to the above inputs NAPTOSA submitted detailed provincial responses with regards to protests, violence and disruptions