High Court orders SADTU, COSAS not to disrupt systemic tests – Debbie Schafer

Minister says dept accepts right to peaceful protest, but people do not have the right to act unlawfully, using intimidation

High Court orders SADTU, COSAS not to disrupt systemic tests

27 October 2016

The High Court issued an order instructing SADTU and COSAS to inform their members not to disrupt systemic tests commissioned by the Western Cape Education Department.

Ms Acting Justice McCurdie ruled last night (26 October 2016) that disrupting the tests is unlawful.

The WCED is testing the skills of learners in Grades 3, 6 and 9 in language and mathematics in the province.

The tests tell schools and the department exactly what to do to improve these skills in our schools.

The WCED uses the results of the annual tests to track progress, set annual targets, to inform teacher training and support, and to evaluate the impact of these interventions, and is fundamentally developmental.

The department has engaged independent service providers to conduct the tests, to ensure that the results are as objective as possible, and thus also alleviating the burden of setting and marking the tests.

SADTU called for a boycott of the tests on 12 September 2016 and has actively sought to disrupt the tests, with the support of COSAS.

Given our above stated objectives, SADTU’s call to boycott the tests is a direct attack on the rights of children, poor children in particular.

The department completed the original testing programme earlier this week. A total of 146 schools did not write or did not complete the tests due to disruption. The WCED has drawn up a schedule to complete these tests by Friday, 3 November.

The WCED applied for an urgent interdict to restrain SADTU and COSAS from disrupting tests at these schools during this period, after a campaign of obstruction and intimidation by them.

Ms Acting Justice McCurdie however ordered that the WCED provide the names of the schools concerned to SADTU and COSAS, and ordered SADTU and COSAS to instruct their members not to engage in unlawful activity in protesting against systemic testing.

Unlawful activity includes disrupting systemic testing at the schools concerned. Such activity would include preventing access to the school premises, intimidation, and any other activity which prevents systemic testing from taking place.

Unlawful activity also includes inciting others to engage in unlawful activity. SADTU and COSAS have to take all reasonable steps to curb any unlawful conduct by their members.

We welcome the judgment. We accept that citizens have the right to peaceful protest, but do not have the right to act unlawfully, using intimidation and violence.

SADTU’s conduct is also causing divisions amongst staff members at schools, which can impact on effective delivery of education and the environment at the school.  I condemn this.

Whilst we do engage with all our stakeholders, and will continue to do so, regarding general educational issues and concerns, ultimately the education department has to make decisions in the best interest of our learners.

Issued by Jessica Shelver, Spokesperson to Minister Debbie Schafer, 27 October 2016