Nothing shows better the plight of President Ramaphosa than the school question. He is imprisoned by bad men and malevolent interests.

President Ramaphosa is accused of allowing corrupt people onto the ANC’s list of candidates for the coming elections, but he cringes before a more harmful influence, namely SADTU, the South African Democratic Teachers’ Union, the primary cause of the disastrous education for most black South Africans.

SADTU ruins the education of poor black children, but is very politically powerful. So, in our strange democracy, the President of South Africa is obliged to wreck the life prospects of most of our young people in order to remain in power. 

The most important question you can ask any politician is this: “What school do you send your children to?” (It only applies to people rich enough to choose their school but all leading politicians are rich enough). In South Africa, the same politicians who praise socialism and affirmative action send their own children to private schools with mainly white teachers. Naledi Pandor, the venerated ANC politician was the Minister of Education under two presidents, the Minister of Science and Technology, the Minister of Home Affairs and now the Minister of Higher Education. Pandor sent a son to Bishops (Diocesan College) and a daughter to Herschel, two expensive private schools with mostly white teachers. When asked in parliament to justify this, she got cross and evasive. Other ANC leaders are the same. Few, if any, send their children to state schools with SADTU teachers. They know SADTU stunts children’s lives.

SADTU knows it too. Many of their teachers send their own children to private schools or ‘former Model-C schools’ (which many black people refer to as “white schools”).

One tragic outcome is to belittle black people in the eyes of other black people. Many black parents want white teachers for their children. This is almost certainly because they associate all black teachers, despite those who are highly competent, with SADTU teachers who are often incompetent.

“This is good for you but not for me” is the central tenet of many politicians. In education this becomes: “For me, a private school with white teachers. For you, a state school with black teachers.”

Despite the huge amounts of money South Africa spends on education, the results are dismal; worse than in developed countries and worse than in most African countries, which spend far less. Our children are at the bottom of the world league for literacy and numeracy. The fault is primarily SADTU, which protects unqualified, lazy, incompetent teachers, who regard the children in their care with contempt, if they regard them at all. They hold union meetings during school time and go on strike at the drop of a hat. They have a terrible rate of absence, especially on Fridays. They work far fewer hours than non-SADTU teachers. SADTU refused to allow the reinstatement of the school inspectorate. SADTU teachers are near impossible to dismiss. 

In Feb 2016 I heard the most devastating speech I have ever heard in our parliament, when the DA Shadow Minister of Education, Gavin Davis attacked the “SADTU Protection Racket”. Extracts:

“ … in most parts of the country, the South African Democratic Teachers Union – SADTU – is in charge of education. … Government officials there told us how SADTU teachers drop their own children off at former Model C schools and then go on strike for the day. … We heard how teachers go on holiday two weeks before the term ends, and come back two weeks after the new term starts. And they get away with it. … At Dumaphansi Secondary, 146 learners have written matric maths in the last three years, but not one learner has passed. And guess what? Not one teacher has ever been fired for underperformance … The reason for the high failure rate in the province was summed up by a District Director who told us, and I quote:“Our teachers are not teaching, that’s the bottom line. Organised labour has taken over the system. Until we correct that, we are wasting our time.” …  But we have to honest about this: there are too many teachers who can’t teach, and too many teachers who won’t teach. …  And they are never held to account because they are members of SADTU and SADTU is an alliance partner of the ANC.”

This last sentence explains why Ramaphosa, who sent his daughters to Roedean and his sons to St Stithians (expensive private schools with mostly white teachers), is forced to grovel before SADTU.  In May 2017, as Deputy President, he gave a sickening panegyric to SADTU at a gala dinner in Kwa-Zulu Natal. (You can read the speech on the government website.)

The remedy for our education system is simple. Take power and choice from the state bureaucrats and unions, and give it to the parents and children. Allow the poor people the choice now reserved for rich people, such as Naledi Pandor. This can be done in numerous ways, including the voucher system.

SADTU will never allow this, and the President must bow to SADTU. Unless we can find a way out of this mess, our education system is doomed, and with it the chances of a prosperous modern economy.


1. Reports of where the politicians I have mentioned send their children to school are easily available on the web.

2. I’ve got Gavin Davis’s speech in full. I have just quoted extracts and put them together in one paragraph separated by “…”

Andrew Kenny is an writer, engineer, and classical liberal

If you like what you have just read, become a Friend of the IRR if you aren’t already one by SMSing your name to 32823 or clicking here. Each SMS costs R1.’ Terms & Conditions Apply.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here