Cyril Ramaphosa calls on teachers to roll up their sleeves and build the country’s human resources

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Thabo Mohlala

The South African Democratic Teachers’ Union (Sadtu) must continue to be a militant, progressive and revolutionary union that advances its members’ interest but must equally ensure it meets the needs of those in its care – learners.

This was one of the nuggets of advice deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa, shared yesterday with Sadtu delegates at its National General Council held in Kempton Park.

Ramaphosa was the last to deliver a speech to the conference after Cosatu’s Bheki Ntshalintshali, the basic education minister, Angie Motshekga and the SACP’s Blade Nzimande spoke on Wednesday.

Sadtu’s conferences have always been used as strategic platforms to lobby support from delegates to adopt particular political positions within the ANC. The teachers’ union has already nailed its colours to the mast by publicly endorsing Ramaphosa as their presidential candidate in December when ANC holds its elective conference.

In his speech, Ramaphosa praised Sadtu for being united in spite of what is going on politically within the alliance, saying what excited him the most is that it is a principled unity. He also applauded Sadtu for building its own village using its own subscription and not with the money “looted elsewhere”.

The union has bought a piece of land where its current head-quarters called Matthew Goniwe House; Ramaphosa officially opened the offices. Plans are afoot to add training and accommodation facilities within the yard.

He said Sadtu must understand that they are an institution and they must ensure it is an institution that endures. He said as an institution, Sadtu must ensure it safeguards our future and interest by protecting other state institutions that are currently under attack.

“You must ensure that our judiciary as an institution is not weakened. You, as Sadtu members, must make sure the judiciary remains strong and independent. That no one must ever attack our judiciary and tries to weaken it. No one must ever attack our public protector office and weaken it. No one must ever attack our auditor-general office and weaken it. We must safeguard the strength and independence of our institutions,” said Ramaphosa

He said rumours abound that Public Investment Corporation (PIC) “that is critical to your life” is also being targeted for looting.

“PIC is an important institution that you as the members of the union must safeguard and make sure that it is protected because it deals with your money as workers. The PIC manages your money, it is your pension money and you as members of the teachers’ pensions must make sure that whoever manages your money do so properly and prudently and that your money must never be utilised for nefarious intents and actions”, said Ramaphosa.

He also paid tribute to OR Tambo saying he was a passionate maths and science teacher who wanted to see a black child receiving a quality education. This year marks his centenary and several activities have been lined up celebrate his life.

“I have no doubt that had he lived, OR would be a proud member of this union”, said Ramaphosa. He called on Sadtu members to pay tribute to “this dedicated teacher by re-affirming our shared commitment to the education of the South African child”. Ramaphosa added: “your role in all this, as teachers, is to make sure we skill the South African child, that we develop the skill base of our people especially the young people. As we do so, we must do it on a massive basis, it must be broad-based.” He said he looks to Sadtu to be among the central drivers of the skills revolution that our country needs.

Ramaphosa reminded teachers that state-owned enterprises can only be fixed if more young people join them, saying we look to young people to be critical role-players in these parastatals. And these young people would have passed through the hands of teachers and would have inculcated values of responsibility, care and commitment in them.

“I applaud you for having chosen teaching as a profession. The nation has bequeathed to you the responsibility to educate the children of this country with commitment,” said Ramaphosa.

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