Shahista Thokan and Sumaya Bulbulia spoke about the impact of union protests, violence and political disruptions that occur during the school term, particularly how it affects learners.
Shahista mentioned, “the planed Cosatu strike this term, caused increased absenteeism amongst learners”. Cosatu together with Naptosa and Sadtu are trade unions that protect teachers rights. The idea behind a protest, ideally should not disrupt the school system. Since these protests are voluntary not all teachers participate, hence there is no reason for students to not attend school, unless management has sent out official notices.
Sumaya stated that “this only pertains to public schools, as private schools do not have unions, therefore, schooling continues as normal in private schools”. All private school learners should attend school as usual.
“Trade unions protect educator rights. They ensure that educators are happy at their workplaces’ as this leads to better performance among teachers.” Shahista argued. She emphasised the need for parents to understand this.
Sumaya mentioned that we need to remember that teachers are also breadwinners in homes, who are trying to provide adequately for their families. We should rid ourselves of negative connotations about unions and understand their purpose and role in teachers lives.
Unions encourage peaceful planned protests, but often some union members do not adhere to this, leading to violence and causing a negative opinion towards unions and protests.
If there is a danger regarding protest action at schools, communication will be sent to parents informing them that students should remain at home so as not to place them in any danger. As parents, ensure that you rely on official communication received from the school only.
Sumaya emphasises that “educators in other schools may not be able to give a clear perspective of what is going on at your child’s school”. So only ask educators from the school your learner goes to.
Shahista stated that “it is not usual that we speak of politics on an educational show, but politics, violence and protests are slowly feeding their way into the education sector”. This has been a topic of many debates and research is now being conducted to ascertain the drivers behind student protests at universities.
Sumaya explained that a riot based culture is being adopted by children and there is a need to teach them to communicate their needs in more socially acceptable ways. This will ensure that the impact of student strikes will be minimised thus creating a less negative impact on the school system.
Protests and strikes should be the last resort, and only after all other avenues have of communications, procedure and other mechanisms have been exhausted to solving grievances. This is a lesson that parents and educators need to filter to students.
Sumaya argues that “the behaviour of rioting, has been learnt from the portrayals of protests in the media and the condoning of this from various parties”. This is why children feel they can do this in any situation.
Shahista elaborated on the commitment to free higher education that was announced in the budget speech this year. She sees this as a positive contribution that the government aims to make.
Sumaya spoke about the large allocation that the government is aiming to make to upgrade the infrastructure of schools. She mentioned the positive effects this will have on the education system itself.
“We can expect an impact on the school system, by this year’s election” Sumaya mentions. Since every new election term, the ruling party will have new initiatives and new goals to implement. Education is intertwined with the political climate, as politicians always aim to improve the education system.
Another issue raised by Shahista and Sumaya was violence in schools. Recent video clips trending on social media show how learners have abused teachers. They explained that the red tape around discipline has in some instances caused violence to increase. Cases of violence tend to only get reported because of video evidence. In most cases when there is no video evidence, it goes unreported.
As much as learners have the right to activism they need to understand the preliminary procedures before protesting and the consequences of violence.
Teachers and parents together need to understand the impacts of union protests, violence and political disruptions on learners and the school system at large. They should work together to put the needs of their children first, to ensure learning continues uninterrupted.