The article by Loane Sharp (SA trade unions the biggest obstacle to job creation, 25 May) cannot go unchallenged.

There seems to be a concerted effort by business and the liberals to vilify the unions (COSATU) and, more particularly, the South African Democratic Teachers` Union (SADTU) which has become a scapegoat for all the ills in the country; from poor quality education and lately - from Sharp - to youth unemployment.

Just because SADTU bashing has become fashionable, this does not mean the bashers should not check their facts. Sharp`s article is simply baseless propaganda created to please the elite and privileged section of our population.
For Sharp to state, `SADTU is deliberately dumbing down SA`s youth to prevent them from competing with established workers,` is beyond comprehension. It is an insult to SADTU, an organization which was produced by the poor and working class to represent them. As such, SADTU fully understands the value of education in the struggle towards the eradication of poverty and would not allow ourselves to rob our people of the attainment of a brighter future.

Although apartheid has been removed from our statutes, it still remains with us and education is one terrain where the after effects are still being felt. Teachers, our members, work at schools in the areas of lower socio economic status like the townships, informal settlements and rural areas. These schools are still poorly resourced, have dilapidated structures, are overcrowded and receive little support from communities and parents.

SADTU is not ashamed of the fact that teacher`s salary gains have been the work of the Union as Sharp attests. Why should we be made to feel guilty for the gains we have made? Sharp then makes an inference that the gains in salaries have led to the dire state of education and therefore we do not deserve these salaries. How preposterous?

Teachers deserve decent salaries just like any professional in South Africa and in the world. Unfortunately, the rise in inflation which adversely affects the cost of living has the same effect on teachers as it has on every citizen.

We have turned down the government`s proposal to use learner performance as the basis for evaluating teacher performance on the basis that learner performance does not necessarily show the performance of teachers, using this as a measure is unscientific. Other contextual factors such as the availability of resources, the learners` socio economic status as well as the level of parental support, also affect the learners` performance.

The language of instruction also remains a challenge for English second language learners. The Social Surveys study shows that the learners whose home language is not English, were likely to repeat. The study showed that 88,4% of learners whose home language is English, never repeated while only 59,1% of learners whose home language was Sepedi never repeated.

This has to be addressed by providing more resources, time and teachers. We welcomed the national curriculum review which has increased time devoted to language at the foundation phase. We have also called for the strengthening of the teaching of indigenous languages because we believe this is crucial before one masters other languages.

SADTU has never refused performance agreements. In fact, we are signatories to the Integrated Quality Management System (IQMS) which is meant to evaluate the performance of teachers. What is lacking in the implementation of the system is the process of developing of teachers after their weaknesses have been identified, using the same tool of the IQMS.

The legacy of apartheid left this country with under-qualified teachers delivered by Bantu-style education. To rectify this anomaly, SADTU has, since 1994, called for a national strategy and plan for teacher development. SADTU was one of the main players in the Education Summit in 2009 which led to the formulation and launching of the Integrated Strategic Planning Framework for Teacher Education and Development in
South Africa in April 2011.

As SADTU we have noted and acknowledged that the crisis in education is systemic and deep- rooted and it won`t be solved by pointing fingers. We are therefore working with other unions and the Department of Education in the Quality Learning and Teaching Campaign to improve the quality of education in the classroom. The Campaign starts from the premise that all stakeholders in education - educators, learners, parents and the department of education should hold each other accountable. As educators we have committed to be, "on time, teaching, well prepared and professionally behaved at all times." We expect the department of education to provide the basic infrastructure, learning materials, development and support for teachers.

Further, in line with our 2030 Vision which has as one of its pillars - Creating A Learning Nation - we have established our own teacher development institute called the Curtis Nkondo Professional Teacher Development Institute. We have trained 20 000 teachers on CAPS (Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statement) throughout the country since January this year.

We are paying school fees and buying toiletries for orphaned and vulnerable children in 173 schools in the country.
In line with the aims of the Institute, SADTU in KwaZulu-Natal made history last Friday when it launched Subject Societies. The Subject Societies have been established for the purposes of improving the subject content knowledge as well as pedagogical content knowledge of education across the system - from foundation until the FET phase. The same province bought 300 000 workbooks for matriculants last year.

We have thousands of our members who spend more than the stipulated seven hours in school, teaching over holidays and Saturdays. However, most are in far flung areas of South Africa and their efforts are never captured by the media.

The time for apportioning blame is over. The education system in this country needs everybody to come together, take ownership and come up with solutions.

We will not be deterred by opportunists and the liberal agenda which seeks to score cheap political points by regurgitating the same lies with the hope that these lies will eventually sink into people`s minds and be seen as the truth.

We are championing the Quality Learning and Teaching Campaign and our 2030 Vision is leading us in "Creating A Learning Nation."