South Africa: Union campaigns to eradicate school violence as it marks 30th anniversary

published 10 March 2020 updated 11 March 2020

The South African Democratic Teachers' Union has kicked off celebrations for its 30th anniversary in the Northern Cape by launching its "I am a school fan" campaign in the province. The campaign aims to address the escalating violence in schools.

The South African Democratic Teachers' Union (SADTU) is a united, strong and focused organisation, now celebrating its 30th anniversary. SADTU has 250,000 members and is affiliated to the Congress of South African Trade Unions. SADTU’s General Secretary Mugwena Maluleke is Education International’s Vice-President for Africa.

Speaking at an event at Seodin Primary School in Kuruman, Northern Cape on 29 February, Mugwena Maluleke paid homage to the founders of SADTU who created “a non-racial, progressive, revolutionary trade union in education, that cares about education, about our children and about our people”.

The fight for liberation

SADTU’s story begins on 6 October 1990, when South African teachers met in Harare and agreed that there was a need for a national teachers’ organisation tasked with changing teachers’ working conditions. The teachers also wanted “liberation from the clutches of apartheid in terms of curriculum and many other things, because teachers had been used as a tool to advance apartheid,” Maluleke explained.

In the following 30 years, SADTU grew and brought together thousands of teachers who embraced their transformative mission as educators, unionists and activists for a better and fairer South Africa: “We did that after SADTU was created and we continue to do that today as we celebrate our 30th anniversary, claiming our rights to have our human dignity, to own our land, to be safely protected, to be respected, and to pursue a decolonised quality public education,” Maluleke concluded.

Northern Cape was the first province to mark the celebrations for SADTU’s 30th anniversary, which will continue in all provinces. The celebrations will culminate in a national event in Durban in October 2020.

Combatting violence in schools

The anniversary celebrations in Northern Cape also featured the launch of SADTU’s I am a school fan campaign in the province. With violence escalating in South African schools and undermining the provision of quality public education, the I am a school fan campaign mobilises various stakeholders – educators, students, parents, public authorities, community members at large – to take a stand and make schools safe for everyone.

The campaign was launched on 22-23 February 2019 with a school safety summit convened by the Department of Education of the province of Free State. This summit produced concrete resolutions, which resulted in the establishment of a provincial steering committee to monitor the implementation of the resolutions.

SADTU is working to expand the campaign across the country in order to make schools safe havens, free from any form of violence against students and teachers. Beyond classrooms, the campaign hopes to help create safe communities and build a caring society.