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Writing in Time Magazine of 13 May 2013, Joe Klein spoke of the ability of certain groups to thwart the will of the overwhelming majority. This was in connection with the US Senate failing to pass a bill on background checks for gun purchasers despite the mass killings in schools and public spaces.

This comment could just as easily have applied to the South African Democratic Teachers' Union (SADTU) prioritising their own interests before those of the people of South Africa.

The poor quality (and inequality) of education is probably SA’s most serious problem (we rank 143rd out of 144 countries for the quality of our maths and science education and 139th for our overall education system). Yet our government allows teachers to engage in go-slows and strikes, and tolerates absenteeism and sheer incompetence. Public Service and Administration Minister Lindiwe Sisulu plans to send inspectors back to monitor schools, enforce a dress code for teachers and make it difficult for both current and former state employees to do business with the government. SADTU says it will fight the reintroduction of school inspectors, the biometric fingerprint system to monitor teachers' working hours and the unilateral implementation of a public service charter.

Earlier this year President Zuma made grand speeches about making education an essential service but has caved in to SADTU, reinforcing why six out of ten South Africans already believe that “the ANC leadership no longer cares about the people”. The truth is that the President’s statements about challenging SADTU would have met with favour among his constituents, whose opinions will start to count much more as we approach election year in 2014. futurefact finds that almost 6 in 10 strong ANC supporters (and even more wavering supporters), believe that providers of essential services like teachers, nurses and police should not be allowed to strike.

In a similar vein, residents of Gauteng (interestingly backed by COSATU) are overwhelmingly opposed to the payment mechanism instituted for e-tolls. The government is determined to press ahead (rather than use other less expensive methods of collecting fees) despite being taken to the Supreme and Constitutional Courts and the Public Protector by groups of concerned citizens who are opposed to it.

We the people ask: Why does the government ignore public opinion but kowtow to SADTU? What power does SADTU wield within government to justify this stance? Without the controls and checks that SADTU are determined to thwart we are going to continue to produce the same abysmal results and unemployable school-leavers.

futurefact finds that 80% of South Africans “would like to see a really strong leader emerge who would re-establish order and discipline”. If there is one place where strong leadership is required in South Africa it is in education.

We the people want to be heard…… and ultimately we have the power.

futurefact has been surveying the attitudes and beliefs of South Africans since 1998.

The findings presented above are from futurefact 2012 which is based on a probability sample of 2,946 adults aged 15 years and over, living in communities of more than 500 people throughout South Africa representing 21.6 million adults. futurefact 2013 has just gone into field based on a sample of 3,000. 

If you would like to find out more about futurefact and its extensive attitudinal databases please contact Jos Kuper 082 904 9939 or check out www.futurefact.co.za