The interruption of schooling was a human rights scandal in democratic South Africa, DA leader Helen Zille said on Wednesday as the country celebrated Human Rights Day.
Speaking at a Human Rights Day march in Port Elizabeth, Zille said a situation where teachers right’s to strike trump the rights of pupils to learn, compromised their ability too reach their full potential.
“That is the real human rights scandal of our democracy, and we can’t afford to let it continue any longer,” the Democratic Alliance leader said in a speech prepared for delivery.
“The Constitution also guarantees the right of all South Africans to decent basic education.
“The interruption of schooling inconveniences the life chances of the children concerned. Just a day missed in following the curriculum puts children behind in their learning and risks their futures.”
While everyone’s rights should be protected, including that of teachers, unprecedented strikes like those recently seen in the Eastern Cape, held the youth hostage, she said.
“It robs our youth of the opportunities with which they can build their own future… South Africans know that a quality education provides a ladder out of poverty and the door to a job opportunity.”
Zille said a hostage situation was at play at many schools across the country.
She criticised the SA Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu) for “slamming the door in the faces of our children”, and the government for “standing idly” watching it happen.
“The conduct of Sadtu over the last two years is nothing short of a national disgrace,” she said.
She said she witnessed “political expediency in its worst form” when President Jacob Zuma “flippantly” thanked Sadtu in his state of the nation address.
Zille said Zuma sold out the potential and future prospects of every South African learner for a few extra votes in Bloemfontein where the African National Congress would elective congress would be held in December.
“Why should our children’s futures be sacrificed on the altar of the political ambitions of a select group of union cronies?” she asked.
She said Zuma promised South Africans that teachers would be “in class, on time and teaching”.
“Instead, we’ve had Sadtu teachers out of the class, in the streets, and definitely off-task.” – Sapa