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Key stakeholders' experiences and perspectives on the role of the South African Democratic Teachers Union (SADTU) in education..

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This study sought to investigate how key stakeholders in education, namely, parents, teachers, school, principals and Department of Education officers view the role of the South African Democratic Teachers Union in education to be. Generally Black teacher trade unions in South Africa has a very broad background, ranging from fiercely fighting the apartheid regime to defending labour rights of teachers. This role became important for SADTU because the laws that governed South Africa before 1994, suppressed Black people, had their educational and political rights violated, including their labour rights. Therefore, SADTU had a dual role to fulfil. The formation of SADTU led to a division within teacher unions that existed then, because of the divergent ideologies that SADTU and they held. Some of them believed in teacher professionalism, while others subscribed to better working conditions and teacher professional development. On the other hand, SADTU kept the militant approach and political affiliation. These two characteristics of SADTU are causing a great concern among stakeholders. This has led to SADTU, through media reports being blamed for the collapse of education especially in Black schools located in townships and rural areas. An interest to investigate this topic was triggered by the apparent gap that seems to exist between SADTU’s official documents such as its constitution and Vision 2030. These documents which are seemingly founded on the country’s constitution, paint the union in a good light, yet, in actuality, the state of education is collapsing in schools. As a teacher myself and a member of SADTU, I have observed unprofessional behaviour from some colleagues who are also SADTU-affiliates, and this has made me question the level of professionalism and the promotion of Culture of Learning and Teaching especially in our Black township schools. I have also seen how the principal seems to be having challenges, with most SADTU members especially the leaders. I have also observed the animosity that exist between some SGB members and union leaders in the school. Therefore, I sought to find out from the mentioned stakeholders what they viewed to be the role of SADTU based on their experiences. This study adopted a qualitative approach, and is located within the interpretivist paradigm. I adopted a multi-site case study research design. The study was conducted using individual face-to-face interviews, one group interview and document analysis. The findings suggest that SADTU is contributing to the collapse of education especially in township schools where there are high SADTU-affiliated teachers. This is caused by SADTU’s militant approach, which involves violent protests and strikes, prolonged strikes, depriving learners from accessing education, unprofessional behaviour such as involvement in violent teacher strikes and prioritising union activities over teaching, which contributes to the death of the Culture of Learning and Teaching. The study recommends that SADTU begins to listen to the views and opinion of stakeholders, and to be consultative in approach, instead of being partisan and self-centred. Most importantly, it should invest in its members’ professional development as it is happening in Europe. Lastly break away from the Tripartite Alliance, because SADTU seems to be distracted by politics from achieving the objective and visions set in its constitution and Vision 2030.


Master of Education in Educational Leadership, Management and Policy. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg 2017.