Item 1124 - Address to SADTU Launch

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ZA COM MR-S-1124


Address to SADTU Launch


  • 1990-10-06 (Creation)

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Transcription of speech made by Mr Mandela

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(18 July 1918-5 December 2013)

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Migrated from the Nelson Mandela Speeches Database (Sep-2018).

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ANC Archives, Office of the ANC President, Nelson Mandela Papers, University of Fort Hare

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South African Democratic Teachers Union Launch

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  • English

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The Chairperson, our guests from different corners of the world, delegates.
Friends and comrades
On behalf of the African National Congress I would like to express our honour to be associated with an event of this magnitude.
The Launching Congress of the South African Democratic Teachers Union has been eagerly awaited by us. It represents a quantum leap for the democratic movement and for the struggle in the education sector.
It is no coincidence that 6 October has been chosen as the day for SADTU's launch. 6 October is International Teacher's Day and in choosing this day I have no doubt that the fraternity of teachers and educationalist is paying due credit to the contribution international organisations have made to our struggle. Particular credit is due to the World Confederation of Organisations of the Teaching Profession (WCOTP) and the All- African Teachers Organisation which with the ANC, SACTU and Cosatu jointly planned and facilitated the historic meeting in April 1988 resulting in the creation of the South African Democratic Teachers Unions.
This congress is a beacon of hope for most South Africans. Hope that we are putting an end to the decades of darkness which apartheid education has condemned our people to. Hope that the aspiration and interests of teachers and educationalist shall now be represented by a single and resonant voice. Hope that we are laying a firm basis for a single and democratic education system.
Friends and comrades
As you are well aware education in our country- as in all colonial situations- has been used as a tool against our people: black and white. Apartheid education- which covers Christian National Education, Bantu Education, Indian Education etc etc, in fact all 14 departments- has been used to divide our people. Whereas other countries have paid attention to education as an agent for uniting and building nations, apartheid education has been used to foster stereotypes. It has been used to inculcate a sense of superiority amongst whites whilst preparing Blacks for certain categories of jobs only.
The entire apartheid framework has so distorted our thinking and behaviour that the struggle for a democratic future has meant ridding our blood system of the impurities apartheid has introduced. The ANC has been committed to certain basic principles which, in contrast to apartheid, sound revolutionary.
But the principles of non-racialism, democracy, unity and non- sexism are universally held principles of any democratic system.
Organisations like the South African Democratic Teachers Union are a product and expression of this struggle against apartheid. They are also a vehicle through we which we enhance our contribution to the struggle.
Our struggle against apartheid and apartheid education has been a long one. It has gone through many forms and phases. The point reached in the 80's has resulted in the deepest crisis faced by the regime. Through the relentless actions of our people we have forced the ruling clique to admit that there is no option left except that of dismantling apartheid and replacing it with a new and democratic order.
The uprisings of 1976 and 1977 shook the very foundations of apartheid and its education system. The heroic actions undertaken by students in that period arose from the desperate conditions reached. Ever since, action for a democratic education system has obtained greater cogency and urgency.
The short-sighted policies pursued by the authorities has resulted in the education system being caught in the vice grip of an endemic crisis. The government has responded with the pettiest of reforms - reforms which are as futile as a prisoner trying to escape by running on the spot.
The education struggle of the eighties evolved a new challenge which we have attempted to meet. Around the demand for 'People's Education' we have raised the question of providing tangible alternatives to the racist system of education. This slogan has at its core the demand for a democratic, unitary education system.
The teaching fraternity, which has not stood apart from the education struggle of the day, will have to gear itself up to meet this challenge. You have, individually and through your organisations, contributed invaluably to the struggle for a democratic education ssytem. A long tradition of opposition has been established by previous generations of educators- a tradition which has been revived and strengthened by you.
The picture of academics, fully robed, protesting in 1983 against de Klerk's Bills on university admissions brought back fond memories for me. It reminded me of the protests the very same universities launched against the Extension of the University Act which legislated the creation of separate universities.
The '60 days of struggle' earlier this year graphically demonstrated the stuff South African teachers are made of. The refusal by teachers to sign the pledge of allegince to the Kwazulu Administration, and therefore Inkatha, the strike by teachers in Gazankulu and parts of Boputhatswana- this is the background against which the launch of SADTU needs to be appreciated.
The Harare Teachers Unity Accord and the establishment of a National Teachers Unity Forum occurred against this background and in the midst of the deep education crisis referred to. We can appreciate that the process which began in April 1988 was not an easy one. But as you have noted in your 'Unity Agreement' the establishment of a single union to represent all teachers and educationalists in South Africa is the first practical step you can take in your commitment to eradicate apartheid in education and in your struggle for a free, non-racial, compulsory, democratic education system.
Many of the 13 organisations which have come together to create SADTU have been in existence for a number of years. Each has developed its own traditions - laying greater emphasis on some issues over and above others.
This does not mean that the new teachers' organisation should be a loose coalition with each of the constituent organisations clinging to their traditions and styles. You have made it clear that you are all committed to a single set of objectives and goals. This commitment should ensure that we blend all the positive aspects of our history into a single stream.
I would like to make use of this opportunity to make an appeal to those teacher organisation which have opted to stay out of SADTU to reconsider. It is clear to any rational person that the entire country is on the brink of a new order. By blindly clinging to the past not only will we be retarding the historical progress underway, we will make it difficult for ourselves to be part of the new South Africa.
Comrade delegates
The SADTU will have to combine concern with the question of working conditions of teachers with that of establishing a high level of professionalism. This unifying process should give birth to a new teacher for a new South Africa.
The new teacher must be one who is committed to the upliftment of the people of South Africa. The new teacher must be committed to people, not to simply filling in forms. The new teacher must be committed to introducing new zest into our moribund education system.
Apartheid was not bothered about our teachers being adequately qualified. This had the ripple effect of continuously diluting the quality of education. We are now facing the problem of the majority of South Africans being illiterate. For the education levels of our people to be raised we will need more and more teachers with better and better qualifications.
It is only an education system based on the concept of People's Education which can address the heritage we have inherited. You, as teachers, have the best opportunity to implement People's Education in the place where it matters most: the classroom.
People's Education lays emphasis on the formal qualification of an individual as well as improving his/her commitment. A fine balance needs to be struck between the Rights and Duties of teachers. The new education system will have to grant teachers the basic right of a living wage. At this point in time 80 000 teachers are earning less than R1000-00. The demand for a living wage must be taken up with urgency and as an attack on the entire teaching fraternity.
The right of political expression and the right to unionise must be struggled for. These are rights which the regime will not willingly grant. These are rights which we trust will be sacred in a new, democratic education system.
Hand-in-hand with the drawing up of a new education system we will be the question of providing new content to the concept of professionalism. At the centre of this redefinition must lie the concept of consultation - consultation in particular with parents and students.
At the same time it must be noted that with rights goes duties. It is your duty as a teacher to democratise the classroom. You have to answer the question: are you developing a different kind of interaction with those in your custody? Are you initiating a new kind of relationship with the students? Is the relationship based on mutual respect and trust or is it one which relies on bullying?
With the gradual 'opening' of schools teachers will need to begin equipping themselves with the ability to achieving non-racialism in practise. We are going to be facing a number of conservative and reactionary forces who will try to destroy the few progressive gains we have achieved.
The school will have to play the critical role of contributing to the process of building a single nation. Just as workers, through their joint efforts on the factory floor, have contributed to the development of a progressive South African culture so too will students and teachers be able to make an intervention.
Comrades and delegates
There is no point in looking at the education system in isolation from the rest of society. There is no point in setting lofty goals without dealing with the immediate.
And there is no other issue which affects the education system as immediately as the violence which has gripped Natal for the past five years and which broke out on the Reef region two months ago. I am aware that the morale of both teachers and students has dropped to such an extent that it is becoming impossible to carry out any classroom work.
It is estimated that because of the violence in Natal about 500 000 students have been displaced. The effects of the violence on education in the Reef has yet to be quantified but let there be no doubt that it has left many of the young ones traumatised and physically brutalised.
The violence our country has experienced in those two regions in particular has already wreaked havoc on the social fabric of communities in Natal and threatens to do so in the Reef. The ANC is committed to the process of removing the root causes of this violence- which are the poverty resulting from racially differentiated access to resources, the bantustan system and the hostel system.
We remain opposed to the high-handed manner in which the police and army have decided to deal with the violence. Instead of applying themselves to catching the perpetrators of the violence they have used it to strip entire Black townships of basic civil liberties.
The argument that 'Operation Iron Fist' is good because it has reduced instances of violence is as fallacious as claiming that Fascism was good because trains were punctual under fascism. Such an operation would never be implemented in white areas. The government's acceptance of it displays once again the huge racial baggage it has to rid itself of.
The ANC has been unequivocal in its belief that a hidden hand is behind this violence. This hidden hand wishes to create a Renamo-type situation in our country. It has availed itself of people, some of whom are from Inkatha, who have had experience in Mozambique working with Renamo. It has trained people in the Caprivi Strip as well SA in the white suburbs of Johannesburg.
Our analysis of the present situation has led us to the conclusion that the state has embarked on a two pronged strategy: talk with the ANC to pull the country out of the mess created through decades of apartheid and weaken the ANC so that it cannot wrest power from the regime.
Our response to the present climate and strategies has been to continue insisting on peace as the first priority. The development of the ANC into the powerful grassroots movement, as we envisaged at the time of its unbanning, has been hindered by the outbreak of violence.
We are thus concentrating on the defense of our communities against the attacks launched by the various forces. At the same time we are placing a high premium on the attainment of peace at the local level. We have called upon our membership to resist provocation as far as possible. We have entered into a number of local and regional initiatives. This includes the Lower Umfolosi Regional Peace Accord which brings with it the promise of peace for people living in the Northern Natal region.
This accord involves a number of parties- businessmen, churches, Inkatha, trade unions, and the ANC. It displays the principles by which the ANC approaches the question of ending the violence: involvement of all parties at a local and regional level. It was with this in mind that we convened the meeting with all the heads of the non-independent bantustans.
People recruited particularly from the bantustans have been used in the violence to carry out the dirty work of the hidden hand. This meeting was aimed at working out a joint strategy so that we put an end to the facetious use of black lives to defend a system which is not in their interests in the first place.
Comrades and delegates
You are gathered at a time when the prospect of transforming a country from one which has been characterised by racism and the wilful suppression of millions of people to one where democracy, peace and harmony prevail is increasingly positive. We have to face up to many challenges, trials and tribulations.
To our international guests I trust you will carry home a message from this conference and from the people of South Africa: the struggle against apartheid has not ended. The future of our country is being decided upon at this juncture. Continued pressure on the South African government is required so that it does not renege on any agreements reached. The few reforms instituted by De Klerk can be easily reversed. As such, your support is required until a firm foundation for a democratic society has been laid.
The launching of the South African Democratic Teachers Union is most welcome as a powerful force in the transformation of our society. On behalf of the entire membership of the African National Congress I wish you all success with your proceedings.

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Acquisition method: Hardcopy ; Source: ANC Archives, Office of the ANC President, Nelson Mandela Papers, University of Fort Hare. Accessioned on 14/01/2010 by Zintle Bambata




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