location: home | library | thesis | teacher associations in "indian" schools in the transvaal



                                              Y. I. ESHAK


In compliance with the requirements of the degree of Bachelor of Education
of the Witwatersrand:  1982


Table of Content:

Indians in the Transvaal
A brief history of Indian education
The first Indian school
Other developments
The separation of education
Schools in Lenasia
The central school and Wits College
The closing of J.I.H.S
Control by the Dept of Indian Affairs
Teacher training in the Transvaal
Social location of teachers
Teachers and oppositions to the political system
A short history of the teachers association in the Tvl
Formation of SAITA
The structure of SAITA
Attitude to SAITA
Case Studies

One: The Forecast Issue
Two: The Moosa Case
Three: The Essop Case
Four: The M.H Joosub School Memo
Five: The Pretoria Principal’s Case
Six: The Thomas Case

The Disbanding of the Lenasia branch
Formation of SAUT
SAITA’s role in the maintenance of authority

The Forecast issue
The Moosa Case
The Essop Case
The M.H Joosub Memo Case
The Pretoria Principal’s Case
The Thomas Case
Other actions against the branch

Possibilities for the future Professional association or trade union

Is teaching a profession
Teaching as a trade
Professional association or trade union
Certain S.A. problems

Teacher unity
New forms of organization: NEUSA and ECSA


Education, through the activities of teachers, is expected to produce fully-developed pupils capable of conducting their affairs in a wise and mature manner.

There is irony in this, because teachers seem to be among the most vulnerable and defenceless of workers. The establishments of an effective organization of teachers, an organization that can provide adequate protection, sees to be beyond their power.

One comes across a bewildering array of acronyms in considering teacher organizations: TTA, SATA, TATA, TASA, UTASA, ATASA, TUATA, SAFTA, TO, NEUSA, ECSA, FCSA, OFSTA, SAOU, AWT, SAITA. ETC. At one time it was possible to list twenty-three organizations. A comprehensive study of teacher organizations would require much more space that is available for this essay. Even a detailed study of one organization cannot be done in this space.This essay will deal mainly with a very limited segment of one teacher organization.

It is an unfortunate fact of our splintered society that all activities, especially those that have any state connection, are conducted along racial lines. As educational institutions, are state-controlled and run on racial lines, teacher associations, with few exceptions, are largely organized on racial lines. Some have recently changed their names and deleted racial clauses but the members generally belong to one racial group.

Any examination of teacher organizations has to consider the reality of these and other divisions. Apart from racial divisions, there are geographic divisions, language divisions, ethnic divisions and divisions according to political affiliations.

The use of terms is sometimes a touchy issue. I found it advisable to use certain state-designated terms, such as “Indian” and “Coloured”. I have used these terms without inverted commas, but also without subscribing to or accepting any of the connotations the use of these terms might imply. They have been used through necessity and for the sake of clarity.



Although Indians were brought as slaves to the Cape as early as the seventeenth century, the first organized group of immigrants were the indentured labourers who came to Natal in 1860.  Following them came the passenger or “free” Indians.  The first entry of Indians in the Transvaal is not recorded, but by 1884 a substantial number must already have been present as Law 3 of 1885 enacted a number of restrictions against Asians.  After that the number increased and further restrictions were imposed.



Early education in the Transvaal was entirely due to missionary activities.  By 1886 missionaries had established seven private schools in the Johannesburg area for Coloureds.  Four mixed schools attended by whites as well were also in existence.

The Ferreirastown school had elementary classes for children during the day and evening classes for adults.  In 1891 the Perseverance mixed school was established by Rev Darragh, and it soon had a majority of Coloured pupils.

The state subsidised only white schools.  Mixed schools received some subsidy only if the majority of pupils were white.  It should also be borne in mind that the term “Coloured” included Indians, and sometimes Blacks.

After the war, the Transvaal Government through the Education Ordinance of 1903 introduced limited state involvement in Coloured (Which included Indian) education.  During this period nine schools were in existence, but with very few children above standard three (T.E.D. Annual Report 1907 p. 54).

The Education Act, Act 25 of 1907 known as the Smuts Education Act was based on a memorandum published in 1905.  Section 29 of the Act required white and Coloured pupils to be educated separately.  In theory the schools were supposed to be the same, but in practice conditions were inferior at Coloured schools.

Sir John Adamson in the T.E.D. Annual Report (1910) stated that there were twelve Coloured schools with a total enrolment of 1644.
After Union in 1910 primary and secondary education for all races was the responsibility of the province.



In 1912, Mr Habib Motan, a merchant, submitted an application to the Witwatersrand Central School Board for the establishment of an Indian school.

The board approved the application, (in a letter dated 11 November 1912) but specified certain conditions:

  1. The committee of Indians was to provide a suitable building and guarantee payment of rent, water and rates.
  2. The committee would undertake supervision, select suitable Indian teachers and advise on salaries.
  3. The staff would be a White principal and Indian male teachers.
  4. The government would provide furniture, equipment, books and school cleaning.
  5. The school would be open to all Indians.
  6. Gujerati could be taught as a language and used as a medium of instruction.
The school was opened on 14 February 1913, initially at Pilkington Hall in Main Street, then moved to Park Road with extra classes attached to the Newton Mosque.  It moved to its present position in 1920 (According to Mr S. Singaram – a retired teacher).  The first principal was Mr A.H. Nye.



Following on the establishment of this school, a group of Pretoria Indians requested the Department in1914 to establish an Indian school in the Asiatic Bazaar in Pretoria.  Two schools were organized by 1916.  One school with Gujerati, Hindu and Islamic religious instruction and the other with Tamil Hindu (According to Mr Bechar – retired teacher).

In 1919, a secondary department was attached to the Vrededorp Coloured Primary School.  In 1920 three Indians were enrolled in the secondary section.

The department decided in 1922 that no Indian children would be allowed in Coloured schools in an area where an Indian school existed.

In 1928 a Transvaal Departmental Committee was appointed to investigate Coloured and Indian education, but its investigation was never reported.

Among those who gave evidence were K.P. Kichlu, Vice-Chancellor.  He submitted a memorandum suggesting that schools become non-sectarian, and that English or Afrikaans be used as a medium of Instruction.  He also suggested that there be no vernacular language or religious instruction at school and that qualified teachers be imported from Natal.

Although the Committee’s report was not officially recognized, some recommendations were implemented.

  1. The use of the vernacular and religious instruction ceased
  2. The vernacular schools in Pretoria were combined and became the Pretoria Indian School.  Later a secondary division was added to the Johannesburg school.

In 1937 the Pretoria Indian School extended its classes to Standard eight (Mr D.D. Mistry – retired teacher).

Under Administrator’s Notice no 128 of March 1937, a provincial education commission, known as the Nicol Commission, investigated education in the Transvaal.  Coloured and Indian education was also considered.  The Transvaal Indian Congress submitted a detailed memorandum.

The commission handed in its report to the Administrator in 1939. Among the recommendations regarding Coloured and Indian education that were subsequently implemented were:

  1. Separate Coloured and Indian schools, except in areas where numbers were small.
  2. Two new high schools were opened, Williams Hills High School for Coloureds and Indians in Benoni and Pretoria Indian Boys High.
  3. The annual allocation was increased.

Johannesburg had its first matriculation class in 1944 and Pretoria had its first class in 1948.

In terms of a 1948 Departmental Committee under Mr J.F. Lynch all junior high schools (to standard eight) were to be replaced by a type of comprehensive high school.

The Griffiths Commissions (Departmental Authority E 110/9- 11 October 1950) found that the buildings in Coloured and Indian schools to be most unsatisfactory.  It also mentioned the shortage of teachers.  It also agreed to let Indian schools continue early closing Friday, but the minimum prescribed hours per week should be maintained.

The “Education Bulletin” (Vol. III, no 4, of 1958) carried a report on Indian and Coloured education. It deplored the fact that the terms Indian, Coloured and Mixed were misleading as they did not describe the actual composition of schools.  It also suggested a separate teachers training institute for Indians.

In 1952, “platoon” or double – session schools were instituted in primary schools because of the acute shortage of accommodation.  The high schools were also over-crowded and in 1954, a disused white school in Booysens was converted to an Indian High School.  It was closed because of objections by residents living near the school.



With the coming to power of the Nationalists, the government was committed to a complete separation of the races.  According to Group Areas decisions, Indians were to be moved to Lenasia.

The Eiselen Commission prepared for the introduction of Bantu Education.  It was also evident that later Indian and Coloured Education would be removed from provincial control and placed under separate state departments.



In 1954, with the Booysens schools, a new school was opened in Lenasia.  Those children who were not accepted in the Johannesburg High School had to travel to Lenasia.  In 1957 pupils from the western areas of Johannesburg - Newlands, Sophiatown – had to leave schools in the area and attend school in Lenasia. Transport by bus or train was provided if parents claimed they could not afford payment.

The enforced move was clearly used as pressure to induce parents to move to Lenasia.  As there were strong objections to racial zoning, there was refusal to move to Lenasia or to attend school there.



The Transvaal Indian Congress opened a private school in Newtown, The Central Indian High School.  Because of some differences, a second school the Witwatersrand College was later opened.

The Central School closed as it could no longer occupy the premises it was using.   The Witwatersrand College was converted to a girls' school in 1964 and closed subsequently.



A Group Two school (to standard eight) was opened in Lenasia in 1959 and converted to the Nirvana High School in 1964.

On the 12 December 1961, the Transvaal Education Department decided that as from January 1962, no standard six pupils would be admitted to the Johannesburg Indian High School.  In 1963, no standard seven pupils were admitted and in spits of strong protests, the school was closed at the end of 1963.



In October 1964 the government announced an investigation to investigate the feasibility of transferring Indian education from provincial control to the Department of Indian Affairs.  Mr P.R.T. Nel conducted the investigation and in spite of strong objections, recommended that education be placed under a Division of Education of the Department of Indian Affairs and this was done with the passing of the Indians Education Act, No. 61, of 1965.



The first Indian teachers were imported from India but the schools were staffed mainly by white and coloured teachers.

In 1919 a secondary section as added to the Vrededorp Coloured school.  Provision was also made for a teacher training section at the section.  This section later developed as the Euro-African Training Centre and then, under the Department of Coloured Affairs as the Rand College of Education for Coloureds.

Students could enrol to become teachers after passing standard six.   In 1922, eight students wrote the T3 (standard six plus three years examinations) and none passed.  In 1924, one passed.  In 1926 nine of twenty candidates passes.  These numbers include Coloured and Indian students.

Indian students enrolled in small numbers at the training college.

In 1954 an Indian Teachers training college was opened in Fordsburg, attached to the Johannesburg Indian High School.  It later came to be known as the Transvaal College of Education.  In 1964, the high school section closed, and the college occupied the premises till the end of 1981 when it moved to Pretoria.



As there is no rigorously conducted survey of social attitudes to teachers, information has been obtained by discussion and interviews but the conclusions are generalised and might be difficult to prove.

The traditional Indian attitude to teachers was one of respect as they combined religious and secular education.  As religious and secular education came to be separated, and as material values became more important, the status of the teacher declined.

The first teachers arrived educated from India.  They understood the language of those in power, (English) and provided assistance with forms and in official communication and were thus held in some respect in spite of their low pay.

While most people saw the need for “English” education, there was a fear among parents that exposing their children to it, would lead to a loss of religious faith.  The preferred a high level of enclosure and were insular in their social lives. There was fear that “English” education could break up their traditional values and relationships.

Thus children went to school only to acquire a minimum of reading writing ability, just sufficient to cope with the demands of their occupations, usually the family business.

As commitment to South Africa became permanent, greater emphasis was placed on education.  Other avenues of employment also became available.

With the first teachers training college in 1954 larger numbers entered the profession, but it was very seldom a first choice.  Other professions, medicine and law, were usually the first choices.

Today teachers are not particularly highly regarded.  The pay is considered law and they are sometimes seen as the agents of the status quo.  Another contributory fact is that a large number of teachers are from Natal and a different system of values and style of life has created friction.



In the same way as there was a close link between African teachers and the A.N.C. there was a similar close link between Indian teachers and Transvaal Indian Congress.  They were not able to occupy official positions but many were active.  Other teachers also involved in opposition, were not affiliated to political organisations.    Mr P.S. Joshi a teacher at the Johannesburg Indian school wrote a number of books on the South African Political System, including “The Tyranny of Colour”, “The Struggle for Equality”, “Verdict on South Africa” and a member books in Gujerati.

S. Nannen was detained for lengthy periods and had to leave the country, Ahmed Timol died in detention.  Thandray and Moosajee were detained in the emergency after Sharpeville.  A number of other teachers were detained.  Many were detained and questioned during the 1966 Republican celebration protests in Pretoria, during the period following June, 1976, and during 1980.  A number left the country, especially in the sixties.

The private Central Indian School and Witwatersrand College had mixed staffs.  Many teachers who resigned or were dismissed in the wake of the Bantu Education boycott taught at these schools.  Teachers who taught at these schools included Can Themba, John Harris, Mrs Fisher, Gora Ebrahim, Dennis Brutus, L. Kabani, J. Sita and others.

Although individual teachers were involved in the political struggle, teachers associations were not involved.



There was apparently no Indian teacher organisation in the Transvaal till 1931.  In October 1931 a small group of teachers under Rev B.L.E. Sigamony, an Anglican priest and principal of the Gold Street School formed the Transvaal Indian Teachers Association (TITA).

Membership was open to all active or retired Indian teachers. Student teachers were allowed associate membership.  Its executive consisted of a chairman, vice-chairman, general secretary, organizing secretary, treasurer and two executive members.

Most teachers did not become members, and even those who did become members showed a lack of interest.  For two decades TITA was controlled and organized by not more than ten of its members and those who held office did so for long periods without regular meetings (L.F. Sangaran, TITA) Secretary).

In about 1940, the Tranvaal Indian and Coloured Teachers Association (TICTA) was formed with George Carr as Chairman, P.Pillay vice-chairman and G. Harris secretary.  It had the same standing as TITA but was considered the more militant.  It held protest meetings and published the “TICI / Bulletin”.  The department took disciplinary action against officials of TICTA and they were also denied promotion.  Eventually, with the separation of Indian and Coloured Education, it faded away.

Both associations were not given official recognition but from 1932 the department did reply to letters and entertain representations.  Stop order facilities were also allowed.



While education was under provincial control, Natal had the Natal Indian Teachers Society (NITS) and Transvaal had TITA and TICTA.  When P.R.T. Nel was drawing up his report on the “take-over” of Indian education, he had a number of meetings with NITS.

At a meeting in Fordsburg (the exact date is not available),  teachers in the Transvaal decided, practically unanimously, that TITA should have no consultations with Mr Nel, but the Executive Committee decided it would not be bound by this decision, and held two meetings with him, one in Pretoria and one in Johannesburg.

They accepted his assurance that no privileges would be lost and these would be no lowering of Standards.  They were also encouraged by his promise that the new system would cater for the special needs of Indians and Indian teachers would also have greater opportunities for promotion.  (As just one comment on the idea of catering for special needs:  Under the TED no difficulties were experienced by schools closing for Friday prayers, while under Indian Education there are still constant problems.).

At about this time (1967/8) another association, the Transvaal Asiatic Teachers Association (TATA) was formed at a meeting at the Plaza Hotel in Johannesburg.  Its chairman was Mr Moodley.  Its membership was not known, but it was involved in some negotiations.

In terms of section 33 of the Indians Education Act, regulations were promulgated on various aspects of Indian Education. Regulation R663 (Government Gazette Extraordinary no 1439) dated 6 May 1966, proclaimed “Regulations relating to the recognition of Indian teacher associations”.

In terms of these regulations, any association desiring recognition had to make an application.  Its constitution had to be sent to the department with a list of office bearers.  An audited list of members also had to be sent.

If the association were recognized, it had to send to the Director, after every annual general meeting:

  1. An annual report
  2. An audited financial statement
  3. A list of office bearers
  4. The latest number of registered numbers
  5. The number and dates of executive meetings and the number of  meetings attended by each member of the executive.

The minister could withdraw recognition.

While the regulations could have been regarded as necessary to prevent irregularities, they could be used as a means of control.  If for example members of other race groups joined, recognition could be denied or withdrawn.

NITS had received recognition from the Natal Education Department while TITA had not been recognized.  NITS thought it would be easier to retain recognition.  At a special general meeting on the 1st April, 1967, its name was changed to South African Indian Teachers Association (SAITA) and its membership was opened to all Indian teachers in Indian educational institutions in South Africa.

With permission from the department, the president of the association, Mr R.S. Naidoo visited schools in the Transvaal to canvass for members.  TITA dissolved and its assets were ceded to SAITA.

At the inaugural meeting of the Lenasia Branch of SAITA, the first branch in the Transvaal, Mr N. Rathinasamy was elected chairman.  A branch was established in Pretoria and followed by Transvaal, Highveld, Johannesburg Central, East Rand, Western Transvaal and Northern Transvaal.

Teachers joined SAITA  primarily because of disillusionment with the lack of activity by TITA.   Efforts had been made to change the leadership of TITA, but these were frustrated by what were considered dubious means.  (At the election meeting in 1965, more votes were cast than there were members present).



The officers were:

  1. The president
  2. The vice-president ( This was later altered to
    1. Deputy president ( Also Natal vice- president)
    2. Transvaal vice-president
  3. Hon general secretary
  4. Hon treasurer

The titles of these posts: 2.i and ii were changed to

    1. Vice-president  for financial matters
    2. Vice-president for professional matters

There were also a full-time paid secretary treasurer, who was present at all meetings and controlled all the activities of the association.

These officers, together with five members elected from the Executive Council, constituted the General Purpose Committee (GPC).  This committee was in effect the executive committee, and in control of the day to day activities of the association.

The supreme policy making body in theory was the Executive Council (also known as the National Council).  It met every three months and consisted of the members of the G.P. Committee representatives from each of the branches.  An annual meeting, open to all members, was held in July every year.

Branches were constituted geographically, with a minimum of twenty five members.  Branch executive committees had a chairman, vice-chairman, hon. Secretary, hon. Treasurer and a representative from every school in the branch.

A member could attend general meetings of the branch, and if there were any problems, the school representative could raise them at executive meetings of the branch.



Teachers felt little grief at the dissolution of TITA.  A new organisation might lead to a more effective voice by teachers in their affairs.

The first issue of the ‘Teachers Chronicle” (Mar. 1988) organ. of the Lenasia Branch of SAITA reflected this hope:  “If educational conditions were ideal and satisfactory to all, then no kind of teacher’s organisation would be necessary.  But as things are far from what they should be, teachers have set up an organisation to achieve what they feel is their right and privilege”.

This sense of purpose did not last.  The second issue (May 1968) emphasized the need for unity:  “Although these will be differences of opinion among us, differences in matters of approach and even of principle (differences are a sign of health, that teachers are groping towards solutions) differences should never assume a proportion where they begin to threaten the very existence of the organisation.  Fragmentation can only bring about a diffusion of our energies, and the frittering away of any chance we may have of solid achievement”.

SAITA headquarters were in Durban, and they did not seem to share the aspirations expressed by teachers in Lenasia.  The disenchantment increased, particularly after the problems in Roshnee in 1972.  Three teachers at Roshnee High School. near Vereeniging, teaching Matriculation classes, were transferred in mid-year after expressing disagreement with the principal.  Parents were perturbed and approached SAITA, but failed to obtain assistance.  Only after they interviewed the director themselves was there any indication that the teachers might be recalled.

Initially all criticism by teachers was directed at the headquarters of SAITA in Durban, but then a series of events took place at the Nirvana High School in Lenasia.  These events brought about a concerted attempt by teachers to use the association as a means of obtaining redress for their grievances.

Previously when teachers appeared to be unjustly treated, they accepted the injustice with bitterness or resigned.  An example of arbitrary treatment occurred in Lenasia after a new school had been named.  The principal was transferred (no reasons were given) and the new principal wanted a new name.  One teacher questioned the change of name.  The next day he was transferred.

Some resistance occurred at Nirvana High School.  Its principal was Mr Rathinasamy who had been a chairman of SANROC and whose assembly speeches were usually against the government. Incidents at the school brought about a change of attitude.  In 1971 the celebrations associated with the tenth anniversary of the republic brought some conflicts into the open.

The department expected schools to have a ceremony, to raise the flag, sing “Die Stem” and close school early on the 30th May. In the face of the wide-spread opposition, a secret circular was sent to principals, advising them that if there was any possibility of disturbances, the ceremony should be cancelled.

The principal insisted on having the ceremony in spite of teachers quoting the secret circular which they had learnt about from other sources.  He labelled those against the ceremony as “agitators”.  About two-thirds of the staff stayed away from the flag-raising, and an inspector arrived at the school.  Although more than thirty teachers had not attended the ceremony, four, possibly considered the ring-leaders, were asked to give written statements about their absence from the ceremony.

One of the four was transferred at the end of the year but there were no immediate reprisals against the other three.  The forecast issue”, however, did seem to flow from the events.



Certain terms which recur and certain abbreviations which occur frequently may need to be explained. 
SAITA: South African Indian Teachers Association: Durban Headquarters
Branch: Lenasia branch of SAITA

Director: Director of Indian Education

Dept:  Department of Indian Education

Chronicle: The Teacher’s Chronicle, organ of the Lenasia   branch

G.P.C: General Purpose Committee of SAITA

National Executive or National Council: Committee of SAITA

Secretary: The full time secretary / treasurer of SAITA
Tranvaal Regional Committee: An ad hoc committee of the Transvaal branches, with Transvaal vice- president as chairman. 

Case studies


In August 1972, at Nirvana High School, the principal, claiming to be acting on the instruction of the circuit inspector, informed all teachers to complete a “Daily Forecast” of lessons.  This forecast required teachers to give precise details in advance of every lesson.

Some teachers, including those involved in incidents of the flag raising ceremony, objected to completing the forecast.  They did not object to a proper preparation, but felt the “forecast” was attempt was unnecessary and an attempt to monitor and control their activities.

An incident at another school illustrated one of the reasons for their refusal.  A teacher had written preparation notes for a guidance lesson on “Separate Development”.  He had wanted students to “Discover and criticise instances of injustices within the social structure”.  The principal had written a report “Inspection of Preparation of Work”.  He had informed the teacher.  “You are hereby not to discuss topics of a political nature.  Your objective has no educational value. Strive to inculcate positive values”. 

Fearing such scrutiny and regarding the forecast as unnecessary and repetitious, three teachers refused to complete the forms.  The matter was not pursued further. 

At the beginning of 1973, Mr Ahmed Essop, who was regarded as the spokesperson for the group, was seconded, ostensibly on promotion, to the teachers’ training college.  Immediately after his departure, three English teachers E. Seedat, M.A Moosa and Y Eshak were instructed to fill in the forecast forms. They refused to do so.  On three occasions inspectors interviewed the teachers and they had to make written statements.  Threats of transfer were made. 

Aware of the possibility of punitive action, the three teachers prepared a detailed memorandum and submitted it to SAITA in Durban.  The memorandum was submitted as the teachers contended in it that “the organisation’s primary aim is to protect its members when they are unjustly treated and feared victimisation. “

The memorandum added:  “We fail to comprehend the attitude of Mr Rathinasamy who accompanied SAITA officials on a deputation (SAITA News:  Vol. 3 No. 1, April 1973) to meet the Director of Indian Education and the Secretary for Indian Affairs on the 15th and 16th February 1973 for the discussion on some of the 1972 conference resolutions.

“The first 1972 conference resolution reads: 
‘That teachers are seriously concerned with the emphasis now being placed on written notes of lessons.  They are of the firm view that they must be given greater freedom in the actual setting out of the preparation…

“That Mr Rathinasamy should complain (in his written report, presented at the AGM of the Lenasia Branch of SAITA on the 24 May 1973) about the harassment of teachers by inspectors to an extent never dreamt of under the Transvaal Education
Department and thereafter all inspectors to harass us…

“In his report on Y. Eshak dated 12 April 1973, Mr Rathinasamy has this to say regarding planning and preparation of lessons:
‘Has a good grasp of the requirements of his subjects. Year’s work planned properly’….

“We, as members of SAITA appeal to the association to consider the matter in a very serious light and come to our defence, legally if necessary, should such action be taken against us”.

In his reply, dated 8th October 1973 but delivered on the 11th November the secretary stated:  “The normal procedure in all schools is that its internal administration is controlled by the principal in charge who, subject to being himself under the supervision and control of his own superior officers, has the final say in all matters”.

This would usually have closed the matter, but the teachers persisted.  On the 16th November 1973, they wrote to the secretary, “Nowhere do we ask SAITA to intervene in the administration of the school (It is).. a plea that SAITA offers us some assistance in the event of transfer or dismissal….”

The Secretary, on the 21st December 197, replied that the matter could not be pursued unless the technically correct procedure was followed.  The matter should first be dealt with by the branch, who could then, if it considered necessary, forward it to SAITA.  Mr Rathinasamy, Transvaal vice-president, was usually present at meetings of the branch.

However, the memorandum had already been considered at a meeting of the branch on 21st November 1973.  Mr Rathinasamy was not present at the meeting.

On the 9th January 1974, the teachers informed the secretary that two of them, E. Seedat and Y. Eshak had been transferred from the Nirvana High School.  On the 1st February 1974 copies of all correspondence were forwarded to the branch.

The two transferred teachers were elected representatives at their new schools, E. Seedat at Lenasia High School and Y. Eshak at Trinity High.  They became part of the branch executive.  On the 11th February 1974, the branch passed a resolution deploring the transfers and requesting further action from SAITA.

The GPC in Durban appointed a sub-committee to consider the complaint, and by the third May 1975, decided, “The resolution (by the branch) is irregular….and….the submission of the principal….that he had nothing to do with the transfer….must be accepted”.

The secretary added that “no useful purposes would be served in pursuing this matter any further”.

It became quite apparent that SAITA was extremely reluctant to pursue this issue.  It also became apparent that the “forecast” itself was not the matter at issue.  The two transferred teachers were not required to complete it at their new schools.

In an editorial, the “Chronicle” (September 1974) commented:”In the case of the Nirvana teachers, SAITA’s record gives no hope.  The case of the Nirvana teachers is a serious one as they compiled a Memorandum and told the body they feared dismissal or transfer…Only in June this year did SAITA set about establishing a special sub-committee to examine the matter…”

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Two of the three teachers involved in the forecast issue were transferred.  The third teacher, M.A. Moosa, the youngest and least experienced, remained at Nirvana.  The other two teachers did not have to do the forecast, but Mr Moosa was again instructed to complete it.  He refused to do so.

In a letter dated the 26 August 1974, he was formally charged “In terms of section 17(1) of the Indians Education Act 1965 (Act no 61 of 1965) with misconduct as defined in Section 16(c) of the said Act in that “…you disobeyed, disregarded or made wilful default in carrying out a lawful instruction given to maintain a daily forecast…”

Mr Moosa formally denied the charge.

In terms of Section 17 an enquiry was arranged with Mr Ockert Jacobus Coetzee ( Principal Magistrate) as presiding officer, Mr M.G. Pillay (Chief inspector) as assessor, and Mr P.J. du Plessis ( Magistrate) to lead evidence for the department.

An attempt was made to obtain legal assistance from SAITA but on 13 September 1975 the Executive Council, the majority of whose numbers were principals, decided by eighteen notes to seven that “Mr Moosa is concerned with an internal matter which has risen essentially from his neglect of an instruction….the council cannot accede to the request…that the Association should provide legal assistance”.

Many teachers expressed the view that SAITA had found Mr Moosa guilty before the enquiry, and teachers in Lenasia collected funds to brief an advocate, Mr Bernard Ancer, to represent Mr Moosa some principals tried to prevent teachers contributing the fund.

The enquiry was at times slightly comical.  An officer of the department had flown to Johannesburg to give identify Mr Moosa, but the evidence showed that Mr Moosa was not correctly identified by the Department.  In effect, the Department was charging a person it did not employ. Only at the enquiry was it discovered, that a departmental circular about the forecast did exist.  Adjournments and telephone calls were required to ascertain whether the circular applied to the Transvaal.  It did.  “Prosecution” witnesses were seen talking to the assessor during an adjournment.  This was irregular and could have led to the enquiry being reconstituted.

Mr Moosa’s counsel charged the department’s administrations with being “chaotic”.  He also expressed the opinion that an inspector, Mr Whitehead, was no credit to the department.  “The Leader”, a Durban weekly, reporting before the trial (19 September 1975) that a teacher could be charged with misconduct for failing to forecast his lessons is something out of the bizarre world of “Alice in Wonderland” with sinister implications.

In its report on the trial, “The Graphic,” another Durban weekly, reported (05 Dec.1975) Mr Moosa had said in evidence that he had received no clear explanation for the necessity of a forecast…that he found no benefit from submitting (it)… he needed to be flexible in his teaching and this was not possible if forecast sheets had to be filled in…

“The refusal by ….Mr Moosa …was not a question of laxness or insubordination, but a question of principle..,’ Johannesburg Magistrate Mr O.J. Coetzee said…He also stated that Mr Moosa was an efficient teacher. 

In the view of many Lenasia teachers, its association had again failed.  The Chronicle (November 1975), before the trial, stated, ‘By not providing Mr Moosa with legal assistance, SAITA had erred grievously.  By its action, it has placed itself in the position of having found Mr Moosa guilty while the department has set up an enquiry to establish his guilt.

In its April 1976 issue, the “Chronicle” commented:  “Mr Moosa’s case should provide an important lesson to the Teachers’ Association:  that a teacher must be protected and that fighting a case, even a losing one, has important implications.  Injustice must be opposed.  The case has exposed those who think teachers are clerks.  And SAITA should learn this lesson.

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Ahmed Essop had been the senior English teacher and acting head of department at the Nirvana High School.  Before that he had taught at Roodepoort, and had also been principal of the private Central School and the Witwatersrand College in Newtown.

He had spoken out when he thought teachers were being unfairly treated and had previously had differences with inspectors.

After problems at the school relating to his opposition to raising the flag, he was seconded in January 1973 to the teachers training college in Fordsburg.  He went on leave for the third and fourth terms.  He declined the opportunity to return to the college, expecting to return to Nirvana High School in Lenasia.   Instead he was appointed to a new school. The new school had classes only to standard eight, while inexperienced teachers were required to teach standard ten classes at Nirvana.

He wrote to SAITA (26 February 1974) requesting that “the issue of transfers be taken up with the Director immediately.”  SAITA did not pursue the matter.

At the beginning of the third term he was transferred to the Model Primary School, and when he objected to the transfer, was instructed to report to the Rustenburg School on the 12th August 1974.

He refused to go to Rustenburg.  On the 14 August he wrote to the director setting out his complaints.  The director replied on the 28 August 1974 that his letter had been forwarded to the chief inspector.

On the 3rd October 1974, Mr Essop was charged with insubordination.  He denied the charge.  In January 1975, the department wrote to him that he had been discharged in terms of section 15(2) (a) of the Indians Education Act as he had failed to report for duty for a period exceeding one month.

From the moment of his first transfer to the M.H.  School, Mr Essop had written to SAITA.  The Secretary had replied “SAITA has always accepted that transfers are usually effected in the interests of the education of the Indian child”.  He also advised Mr Essop to take up the question of the transfer with the authorities himself. 
The branch was not satisfied, and at its executive meeting on the 6 June 1974 decided to inform “SAITA to ascertain the reasons for the transfer forthwith”.

About subsequent events, R. Thomas, chairman of the Lenasia Branch, stated in his annual report (27 May 1975).  “Mr Essop’s matter has dragged on since August 1974, when he accepted the challenge of facing a departmental enquiry.  The Department, as everyone knows, refused to hold the enquiry and dismissed him after six months of waiting.  The G.P.C of SAITA, after consulting the Association’s attorney, washed their hands off the matter, and it was only at the Executive Council meeting in March that the branch, assisted by the Transvaal Regional Secretary, managed to get the decision reversed and the matter was then handed to Senior Council in Johannesburg’’. 

The branch also managed, with great difficulty, to obtain some financial relief for Mr Essop.  The amount was paid irregularly and the branch had to write repeatedly to obtain the R200-00 per month, half his salary, as a loan.  The branch secretarial report (27 May 1975) commented: ‘’One important matter that arose from Mr A. Essop’s case, that of financial assistance.  He was given financial assistance until the end of December and thereafter received nothing.  His case brought to the knowledge of all members that the SAITA Relief Fund does not exist, a Relief fund advertised year after year…..  That SAITA can have accumulated funds of R78 548 and yet allow a member to be without financial assistance is a very serious start of affairs’’. 

Mr. Martin Horwitz, Senior Council, submitted an opinion which stated that there was an arguable case.  The ‘’Chronicle’’ (20 June 1975) reported: ‘’When Senior Council gave his opinion, GPC took a snap decision without referring the matter to Executive Council (the Supreme body of SAITA) and referred the matter to another Senior Council for an opinion, presumably because the first Councils opinion was favourable… what do they hope achieve by a second opinion?…

An unfavourable opinion does not imply that a case is lost or a favourable opinion that a case is won’’. 

In the event, the second opinion by Senior Council Mr G.I. Raftesath S.C. was unfavourable and ended with the view that “if Mr Essop wishes to remain in teaching, he has no alternative but to go cap in hand to the Secretary and seek re-employment”.

After considerable argument, the Executive Council decided unanimously (22 November 1975) to institute legal proceedings.

According to the “Chronicle” (May 1977):  “It was left to the GPC to instruct the attorney.  In March 1976, the executive was told the attorney was delaying…  At Conference time the matter was raised again, but no satisfactory explanation was given.  In September 1976 at the N.C. meeting, the whole matter of continuing with the case came under review and another decision was taken (with one Branch voting against ) to continue……

“At the November N.C.  meeting, President Samuels proposed that it was ‘essential to impose limits’ on the legal bill…  This was an attempt to jettison the case.  Fortunately delegates reacted strongly….”

The case was heard in Pretoria on the 1st June 1977.  In a brief judgement, without any reasons being given, Mr Acting Justice MacGreath decided against Mr Essop.

All attempts to have the case taken on appeal failed.

The leader (17 June 1977) reported Mr Essop as saying that although he had lost the case he was not despondent.  “I took the matter to court as I felt that all forms of bureaucratism and authoritarianism cannot be a part of education and that they constitute an insult to the dignity of teachers”.

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The M.H.  Technical High School in Lenasia was in fact not a technical school but an ordinary school.  It opened in January 1974 with Mr E. Moosa as principal.

There were a number of incidents at the school and according to teachers, a state of unhappiness prevailed.  A. Essop was transferred from the school.  V. Poonan, the vice-principal, had difference with the principal and was also transferred.

On the 5th August 1976, a memorandum detailing their grievance against the principal, was drawn up by five teachers, Y.Khan, F. Saith, C. Samuel, Jay Soundram and A. Ismail.  In a lengthy, detailed memorandum, the following were some of the allegations:

  1. The principal threatened teachers with dismissal because of their “attitude” towards him.
  2. Together with several teachers who travelled with him from Pretoria, he came to school late practically every day.  If other teachers were late, he reprimanded them.
  3. Classes and subjects were assigned, and time-tables drawn-up at the whim of the principal.  There was no regard for the teachers or pupils.
  4. The principal gave instructions regarding preparation contrary to instructions that had been given by inspectors.
  5. The principal did not go to the classes he was required to teach.
  6. Nothing had been said to pupils about long hair during the year, yet they were excluded from examinations for having long hair.
  7. There was no finance committee at the school, and no financial statement was issued.
  8. Moneys collected by pupils for cleaning and caretaker personnel were not given to the persons they had been collected for.
  9. Donations given to the school were not entered in the school books, nor was the money which had been raised from compulsory film shows.

The memorandum was submitted to SAITA.  It was read at a GPC meeting (14 August 1976) who recommended that it be sent to the department through the principal.

The department reacted as if the teachers were the accused.  Officials of the department came to the school, and questioned the teachers in the presence of the principal, who took part in the questioning.  The teachers objected to the manner of the investigation, and requested SAITA to take up the matter.

The secretary communicated with the department and eventually had a long telephone discussion with the deputy director, Mr S.P. Van Den Heever, on the 18 November 1976.  A written report was sent to the branch.

The deputy director stated:

  1. The way the teachers were questioned was normal procedure and therefore not irregular.
  2. Whereas the complaints were not baseless, they were in his opinion, not justified.

The branch found it difficult to accept the contradiction in the second statement.  If they were “not baseless” then there was substance in the complaints.
The secretary agreed with the department and said “I advised that the information… (was)…not of concern to the Association at present for the reason that at no time had the association taken up the matter of the complaints of the teachers as such with the department”.  His concern had been only been with the procedure.

Following this, the teachers received letters from the department “the spirit of antagonism towards your management staff as revealed by the memorandum cannot but be detrimental to the discipline and general well-being of the school...”  And it also admonished them “You would do well to adopt a more professionally sound attitude and to accord the principal your full co-operation”.

As the memorandum alleged financial irregularities, were they expected, the teachers wondered, to co-operate with the principal.

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The principal of the Laudium High School, K. Lingham; the deputy-principal, R. Jeram; and E. Dawood, the vice-principal, were dismissed.  They were given the choice of accepting early retirement instead of dismissal.

They were dismissed in terms of section 17(1) (E) of the Indians Education Act which states that a teacher can be discharged if, in the opinion of the minister, the dismissal will “promote efficiency or economy in the school in question”.

According to the Sunday Times Extra (27 November 1977) the trouble began when newspaper reports criticised conditions at the school.  The director visited the school at the end of May and commented on some litter (some crisps packets) in the playground.  On 10th October 1977 Mr Lingham received the letter terminating his services.  The post of principal was filled from January 1978 by Mr E. Moosa, previously principal of M.H.  High School in Lenasia.

The Pretoria and Lenasia branches and the Transvaal Regional Committee strongly urged SAITA to contest the dismissal, but SAITA disagreed on the grounds that this might jeopardize the pension benefits of the dismissed teachers.

The storm of adverse publicity continued.  Most of it was directed at the Executive Committee of the South African Indian Council (SAIC) which was technically responsible for the dismissals.

In what appeared to be an attempt to justify itself, articles appeared in newspapers (The Post: 23 November 1977) which quoted unnamed SAIC Executive members and gave lurid accounts of drinking and drug use at the school.

The Transvaal Regional Committee urged SAITA to institute actions against the newspapers, as this would in no way affect the teachers’ pensions but could allow vindication.  SAITA did not table this request at any of its meetings.

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Ralph Thomas had been teaching from 1956.  In 1966 when the Department of Indian Affairs took control of Indian education, he resigned, pointed out in his letter that he had entered into a contract of service with the T.E.D. and not with the Department of Indian Affairs.  He taught for a period in Botswana, returned to Lenasia and after submitting a letter of apology, was employed in a temporary capacity at the Lenasia High School.  He applied regularly but was never able to obtain a permanent appointment.

He had always been a member of TITA, an association founded by his grandfather, the Rev. Sigamoney.

He stood unsuccessfully for the post of chairman in 1971, and in 1972 became vice-chairman.  In 1974, with members becoming increasingly dissatisfied with SAITA, he became chairman.

He attended his first Executive Council meeting on the 21 October 1972.  He was outspoken at meetings and often clashed with the officials at meetings which previously had been short formalities.

He was not successful very often.  At the 1974 Annual General Meeting, he proposed that SAITA have no communication with the SAIC.  His proposal received three votes of a possible two hundred and fifty or so members.  (There is some irony in his proposal, in view of his present decision to stand for election to the Indian House of Delegates).

In July 1976 he was elected Transvaal vice-president of SAITA.  As a member of the GPC and a member of delegations to the department, he had differences on various occasions with the director.

At the beginning of the second term of 1976 (20 April 1976) he was transferred without explanation from the Lenasia High School to Nirvana High School.  The “Chronicle” (April 1976) reported “Mr Thomas’s transfer originates with a report by the principal of Lenasia High School, to the authorities, for not having completed a Mark Schedule according to instructions.  Mr Thomas contended that he had completed his schedule and pupils had received final reports…

“According to Mr Thomas he had a difference of opinion with the principal regarding the interpretation of a circular about underlining and making rings around failure marks in a mark schedule’.

The Executive Council expressed concern (12 June 1976) that Mr Thomas had no access to the contents of a letter concerning himself written by the principal.  The meeting was informed by the secretary that “The Director had explained that the tone of the school was being disrupted because the principal and Mr Thomas could not get on together”.

The transfer was discussed again at the Executive Council meeting of the 09 July 1976.

At a meeting (14 August 1976) of the GPC at which Mr Thomas was present and in spite of his objections, it was decided not to pursue the matter.

The fact that Mr Thomas had succeeded Mr Rathinasamy, principal of Nirvana as Transvaal vice-president was evidently a cause of strained relations. Conflict between Lenasia branch and SAITA continued, and R. Thomas was able to express the view of the branch at GPC meetings and as vice president at Executive Council meetings.

At the end of 1977, Mr Thomas’s services were terminated.

The Sunday Times Extra (18 December 1977) said that his dismissal would be a severe test for SAITA.  It was obvious he had been victimised.  He had an M+2 qualification and nineteen years experience.  (He also had some degree courses).  Other temporary teachers and locum tenens with no professional qualifications and lower academic qualifications did not have their services terminated.

At the urging of the branch, SAITA took up the issue with the director.  In a letter to Mr Thomas (14 December 1977), the secretary reported on an interview with the director.

He had pointed out to the director that SAITA was “not aware of any factors other than the fact that you were in temporary employ which caused the department to discharge you from its service… as an official of the Association you were held in high esteem and the action against you was viewed with concern….

“The Director replied that “Terminations are determined on the basis of need and supply”.

R. Thomas was also advised to apply for a re-appointment.

In January 1978 he was not re-appointed.  Although there were vacancies in Lenasia Schools, and some locum tenens had been appointed, the department continued to assert that there were no suitable vacancies for him.

In a letter to him on the 4 February 1978, the secretary informed him that the director had stated that although Mr Thomas was an officer of the Association. “no officer of the Association would be treated any differently from other teachers in the service”.

The branch wrote to SAITA on 6 February 1978 criticising it for its “apparent apathy” in having Mr Thomas re-appointed.

An editorial in the Chronicle (April 1978) commented:
“The climax was reached over the issue of Mr R. Thomas who was dismissed last year after 20 years in the profession:  Mr Samuels advised (him) to apply for re-instatement.  Mr Thomas told him that would be a futile exercise as he strongly believed he was being victimised.   Later, the president, without consulting Mr Thomas, led a deputation to the Director (24 December 1978) who informed them that Mr Thomas was an unqualified music teacher (which the deputation accepted as they did not know the truth)…

It was clear to all that Mr Thomas was being victimised except to Mr Samuels, who told him that victimisation existed ‘in his own mind’ and that the Department had ‘acted justifiably’.

“In terms of SAITA’s constitution a clause … states, ‘Any member who may be suspended or dismissed from the service for reasons that the National Council deems to be unfair, shall continue to enjoy all rights of membership.’”

However, at the National Council meeting on the 18 March 1978, the president did not allow Mr Thomas’s membership to be debated.  He ruled that Mr Thomas was not a member. 

When the Lenasia delegate, Y. Eshak, persisted in the matter, he was ejected from the meeting. 

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The Lenasia branch held a special general meeting on 18 April 1978 and decided to cease to function.  The “Chronicle” (April 1978) stated:
“The decision of the Lenasia Branch to cease to function is correct.  No member can tolerate the insult to Mr Thomas and the branch representative at the National Council meeting…” 

“Only those without dignity or those who wish to join the Department in persecuting teachers will want to continue as members…”

Eighty one (of about two hundred) members resigned immediately and substantial
number – the exact figures are not available – resigned soon after. 

The branch remained dormant for some time.  Although it is in existence again and in spite of concerted membership drives, it has made little impact. 



In August 1978 the inaugural meeting of the South Africa Union of Teachers was held.  The eighty one teachers who had resigned from SAITA and another thirty three persons joined. 

“The Teachers’ Voice”, organ of SAUT gave this view (November 1978) through the lead in the formation of SAUT was taken by ex-members of SAITA, it was not only dissatisfaction with the direction in which SAITA was moving that led to the formation of the new body.  A time had come when the various teacher organizations divided on racial lines – had began to stagnate and were no longer capable of reaching out from their racial shells to communicate meaningfully with each other.  This was amply demonstrated during the serious educational trauma in the country during the past two years when the serious teachers’ organisations did not even get together in any way and remained irrelevant entities.” 

Members of the SAUT provided some support during the 1980 student problems.  At that time, with the formation of NEUSA, the union felt Neusa would be in a much better position to achieve the objectives it desired and advised its members to join NEUSA. 
Since then SAUT has not been active.  The position adopted by its president, Mr R. Thomas, in the sports situation and in the current constitutional arrangements seems to make it unlikely that it could be revived to play any meaningful role. 




In the forecast issue, SAITA stated its attitude quite clearly.  It regarded the dispute between teacher and principal as a matter of internal administration.  Even after teachers had been transferred, SAITA decided (GPC: 3 May 1974) that “no useful purpose could be served in pursuing this matter”. 

Clearly they felt that authority had been correctly implemented.


Although a constant complaint at SAITA meetings concerned the burden of unnecessary and meaningless paperwork, SAITA was not prepared to support M.A Moosa. 

It refused to provide legal assistance and insisted that Mr Moosa had to carry out the principals instructions.  It was not prepared to act even when attempts were made to stop funds being collected in Lenasia. 

SAITA, quite explicitly, did not want to oppose the department in this affair. 

The only action it was prepared to take was to plead with the director to ameliorate
Mr Moosa’s punishment.  He had been transferred to Roshnee, and SAITA pleaded that the directors limit the period of his transfer away from home. 

Their conciliatory approach had no effect.  Executive Council minutes (18 September 1976) indicate that the director was not prepared to alter the punishment or make any other concession. 


Mr Essop had an honours degree in English and an excellent teaching record.  There was clearly no professional justification for his transfer to a primary school. 

He was transferred in August 1974, and it was only on 8 March 1975 that the matter was referred to Council for opinion. 

Even the decision by the Executive Council (23 November 1975) to proceed with the case, officials did not do so.  There were still attempts at delay. 

The case had important implications.  A teacher who became unconscious and did not apply and did not apply for leave was automatically dismissed and the department had no discretionary powers.  Legal opinion was that the issue should be tested on appeal, but SAITA refused to do so.

In contrast with the delay in this case was the speed of action in a case against the leader, a Durban weekly.  It had published a letter (July 1975) critical of SAITA.  In early August 1975, opinion was obtained from Senior Counsel.  The GPC decided (20 August 1975) without waiting for Executive Counsel approval, that proceedings be instituted.  The conclusion seems inescapable that there was much greater reluctance to proceed against the authorities.  The financial assistance provided also appeared niggardly.  Its balance sheet as at 30th April 1977 showed accumulated funds of R85 841 – 93c with R37 500 – 70c in fixed deposit yet only reluctantly was Essop granted assistance, with a loan, of R200 – 00 per month.  Attempts were made to have him pay a share of the legal expenses (National Council: November 1976) and eventually he had to pay the state’s costs himself. 

SAITA seemed to want to ensure, by delay and by inadequate assistance, that Mr Essop would not be able to proceed. 



The memorandum was initially submitted to SAITA.  The GPC (14 August 1976) “Suggested that the teachers concerned request that the memorandum be forwarded through the principal of the school….”

The Secretary then informed the deputy-director”….at no time had the association taken up the matter of the complaints…”  This and the failure to question the contradictions in the department’s report seemed indicative of a desire to avoid disagreement with authority.



SAITA explained its reluctance to proceed legally by saying that the “dismissed” teachers could forfeit their pension benefits.

This is possibly a justifiable argument, but there seemed to be no justification for a refusal to proceed against the newspaper allegations about the teachers.  There was no danger of loss of benefits but a victory would have seriously embarrassed the authorities.



 After the dismissal of R. Thomas, SAITA, apart from two interviews with the director, did not seem to be really concerned.  There was also an appearance of haste in terminating his membership, although the constitution allowed him to remain a member. 

To obviate this possibility the president ruled that Mr Thomas was not a member, and added the only way to change the ruling was by passing a vote of no confidence in him, a much more difficult proposition.



 SAITA also made determined attempts to have the leadership of the Lenasia branch changed.  In May 1975, just before the branch elections, the GPC wrote individual letters to members in Lenasia.

The “Chronicle” (20 June 1975) reported:  “This letter accused officials of the branch of having usurped power and acting unconstitutionally.  Why did the GPC not consult the Transvaal vice-president (Mr Rathinasamy).  And the letters were handed, rather strangely by the Transvaal Vice-President to principals of all schools in Lenasia, and in the process three principals who are non-members received these letters to hand to members”. 

Another determined attempt was made to change the leadership of the branch in the May 1977 elections.

Principals at a number of schools in Lenasia called teachers individually to their offices and told them whom they should elect.  Their activities appeared to have the tacit approval of the authorities.  At the meeting, nearly all principals of schools in the area, even those who were not members, were present.  A motion for a secret ballet was passed by a very narrow margin.  After that officials of the branch were re-elected.



 Although exact figures are not available, most of the officials of SAITA occupy promotion posts.  In Indian Schools, promotion post holders are termed as being part of the “Management” of a school.  It became evident that the interests of the management and the interests of ordinary teacher were widely divergent.

From the case studies, it would appear that the teacher’s association (SAITA in this case) seemed unwillingly to confront authority and thus served as an instrument for the maintenance of authority.

It could by courage, by determined opposition, by the use of publicity, by legal action, have done much more to prevent the intimidation of teachers and control the more unreasonable exercise of authority.

Unfortunately, it acted more often as an organisation that discouraged opposition and assisted in imposing authority.




A teacher, as an individual, is extremely vulnerable.  Ranged against him/her are the full power and all resources of the state under the circumstances, organization becomes imperative.

Teachers have organized, but the organization have not usually proved satisfactory.  One of the reasons is the dichotomy which prevails.  In South Africa there is increasing debate about the form and the nature of a teacher’s organization.  Should it be a professional association or a trade union?  The debate cannot be fully considered here merely a few points are mentioned.



The question cannot be answered unequivocally.  The teacher’s training of other professionals then the training of tradespeople.  A teacher does not learn by apprenticeship.  The course of content is intellectual and has a strong academic bias and a high theoretic content.  The teacher also deals with persons rather than objects.

But there are important differences too.  The teacher is rarely self-employed as most members of the legal and medical profession tend to be.  The teacher does deal with persons, but rarely on an individual basis.

Other professions usually set their own requirements for admission to the profession and determine their own forms of remuneration.

Attempts have been made, and continue to be made, to give the occupation a professional status as well as the powers of the organized teaching profession…. Also enjoyed particular attention in the HSRC’s report ‘The Provision of Education in the RSA” ( J.G. van Wyk).  The law of the education for the teacher:  P62).  The South African teacher a Council for Whites. Modelled on other professional bodies, is also an attempt to create a professional image, but it does not have the same authority as the Medical Association or Bar Council.

While the SATC for Whites does have a “committee for qualifications and training” therefore this is mainly an advisory committee.  The Committee of Joint Heads of Department (of the directors of education department) appears to have much greater power.  In the current negotiations between the government and the Federal Council of Teacher Associations, it was the government’s decision to create more promotion posts.  A person can also teach for three months before registering with the SATC for Whites, no doctor or lawyer can practise  without registering. 

Most of the emphasis of the SATC for Whites seems to be on codes of conduct, but it does not have overriding powers: “There is also a mutual arrangement between the SATC for Whites and education departments appertaining to cases where the department acts against teachers who are guilty of misconduct or incompetence.  “(J.G van Wyk: Ibid: p77).  If a doctor or lawyer is dismissed from state service he would be able to practise his profession.  A teacher is seldom able to do so.  In cases of incompetence, a doctor or lawyer is judged on tangible evidence while a teacher is judged on the subjective evaluation of an inspector. 



These are some of the difference between teaching and other professions, but the similarities mentioned previously mean that there are also many differences between teaching and the carrying out of trade. 



Briefly, it would seem that a professional association is more appropriate if an organisation places stress on the broader issues, for instance combating racism.  A trade union would be more concerned with the issues of the work – place, such as victimization and wages.  The seventy member South African Teacher’s Guild (SATG) have been accepted into the Trades Union Congress of South Africa. (The Star: 13 July 1984) but the legality of their position is in doubt.  Section 2 of the Industrial Conciliation Act specifically excludes employees of the State. 

I feel that perhaps teachers would have to develop their own form of organisation, part professional association and trade union.  We do not have to choose between the two, and teaching as an occupation is certainly different from other occupations.  We do not have to feel that been called members of a professional gives us any special dignity.  On the other hand teachers’ strikes hurt other people, and not their employer, the state. 



South African education is controlled by a variety of departments, created on racial or ethnic lines.  In countries education is designed to implement political or social philosophies, but the South African government has been frank and insisted about it.  The control is explicit and sometimes brutal.  It has been possible to carry out Dr Verwoerd’s often – quoted plans fully, but the intention still exists, although the attempted application is much more sophisticated today.

It is interesting to see the applications of the theories of Athusser, Bourdieu, Bernstein and others in the South African situation. Space prevents a description but one or two comments can be made.

Black schools have a large drop-out rate towards the end of the primary level and Indian and Coloured schools towards the end of the secondary level.  Does this bear any relevance to the correspondence theory of Bowles and Gintis. We can easily see the strong framing described by Basil Berstein, and Representatives and the ideological State Apparatuses described by Althusser.

An interesting theory to consider might be Young’s.  He describes the three points of control as curriculum, pedagogy and evaluation.  Curriculum is firmly in the state’s control, evaluation not as firmly but still in its control.  The only point of difficulty is pedagogy.  The example of the teaching of history illustrates the need to control this as well.

The state has always had control of the history syllabus, and examination questions have to be set on the syllabus.  Yet very few black students accept the “school” version of history while many Afrikaner students accept it.

This “hidden curriculum” of the teacher often affects people’s attitudes, and it becomes important for the authorities to control the teacher.  Dissidence must be minimized, conformity and “the correct attitude” encouraged.



Teacher organizations could obviously play a part in resisting the applications of the authorities, but the case studies do not give much encouragement.

It had been argued that if there were greater unity among teachers, they would be less susceptible to pressures by the stats.  This is arguable, but true or not, it has proved difficult to unify teachers.

There have been tentative attempts at teacher unity.  The formation of the South Federation of Teacher Associations ( SAFTA) was one such attempt.  It was not particularly successful.

The failure was rooted in a variety of causes, but the main problem, I think, was how to bring together, in a meaningful way, teachers with completely opposing philosophics.  Black, Afrikaner, and most English-speaking White organizations did not join SAFTA.

Another recent attempt has been made by Mr Franklin Sonn with the issue of his Educational Principals to Form the Basis of “Charter for Teacher Unity in South Africa”.  The need to satisfy diverse groups has led to the principles being too generalized.  There could be contradictions on the principles that advocate control by a single education authority (principle 12) and principle fourteen that would allow “Individual communities to exercise their local option with regard to pupil admission etc”.  Other contradictions would be possible if the principles were to be put into practice.

There have been disagreements about these “teacher unity” moves.  Mr E.J. Brown, in his Presidents Column of the “Transvaal Educational News” (February  1983) argued:  “Separate educational departments for the four facial groups has made separate racial associations as necessity….  “ if teacher associations were merely trade unions, one association for all would be the most effective” ….(but)..” a teacher’s association owes allegiance to the community….in such things as management style, discipline, patriotism, religion, etc.”

It appears unlikely that any real form of teacher unity will be easily brought about, especially among the “recognised” association.

In the face of the implacable attitude of authorities, and their power to discourage or repress dissent, is there any purpose in trying to express disagreement.  It has been compared to playing a game in which the opposing player makes the rules and is the umpire as well.

In every one of the case studies, the department appeared to prevail.  The opposition by teachers appeared merely as an insignificant hiccup in the expression of its authority.  The attitude of the teacher association made opposition even the proof is in the case studies, teacher association are instruments for the maintenance of authority rather than instruments for the implementation of educational justice.



A different form of organization, one that does not seek official recognition, is also attempted.

ECSA (Education Collective of South Africa) at present seems to serve more as a forum for discussing education related problems and probing of the realities of the complete situation.  It appears to be still exploring its future strategies and operations.  Its most valuable function could be that it would make teachers aware of the real structure and problems of education.

NEUSA ( National education Union of South Africa) with a larger membership was established at a well attended meeting in 1980.  Initially it seemed to veer towards being a trade union, but recently has placed emphasis on its role as a professional association.  It has also served as a forum but has in addition established centres where teachers can obtain assistance.

The advantage of this approach is that basic principles have been established, and teachers whichever department they may serve under, can belong to the organisation.

An important need is being filled.



There is some basis for expecting that the new “unrecognised” associations provide some hope.  According to the “Teachers’ Voice” (November 1980.  “What can a teachers’ body achieve? It must be appreciated that achievement can be counted not only in terms of gains but existence.  The existence of a teachers’ body with an open membership creates a positive field:  it concentrates the aspirations, views and thoughts of teachers…its meaning resides in its existence in its affirmation that education and educational problem are indivisible…

“Despite the claustrophobia of the South African situation there are many things a teachers’ association can do…

“Ultimately though, it is a question of dignity.  An organisation that wants to exists with dignity can never look recognition from officialdom’s hierarchs.  Communication can only exist on a basis of equality…

“And what if teachers through fear or other reasons do not join…in great numbers.  Numbers have never given validity.  It has always been ideas, ideas that are morally and rationally universally cherished”.

  1. A. ISMAIL
  5. M.A. MOOSA
  6. L.F. SANGARAN: Secretary TITA; Secretary TVL Regional Committee, SAITA, Vice-president, TASA.
  8. Ms. M. SITA, Form teacher, member TIC
  9. R. THOMAS, Former teacher: Held positions in TITA, SAITA, NEUSA
  10. Brief interviews with various other people.