The birth and life of the National Teachers Union Towards the Centenary
The National Teachers’ Union (NATU) walked a lonely, long and winding but dignified road from 1918 through the segregation of the 1920’s, the missionary era, the Bantu Education era with its notorious school board system, the Black Education era with its students and class boycotts, the pre-liberation era with its defiance for authority and People’s Education slogans to the present political dispensation with its curriculum experimentation, casualisation of teaching and permanent downsizing of education institutions personnel.
NATU is an organisation of the future which provided and till continues to provide a support system for professionally-oriented educators.
The entire life of NATU from the era of Reverend Xaba to that of S.L. Ngcobo has been the perpetual struggle towards the quality of teaching and learning on the one hand and towards the enhancement of the status of the teaching profession in general on the other.
It is the organisation’s hope that one day teachers will work with dignity.
The year 2014 marked the celebration of the union’s 96 th anniversary as the event looked back at the formation of three stalwart organisations in 1918 which would eventually give birth to NATU.
Imbued with the loved of and care for their teaching profession, there was a dire need to unite teachers in the then Natal Province, now known as KwaZulu-Natal, into one compact body so as to speak unison in their struggle against the injustices suffered by the teachers in South Africa both under the British and the Afrikaans regimes.
The mission statement of NATU goes thus:
“Teach the children of the nation like never before” and in so doing “bring joy back into the classroom.”
This statement reaffirms NATU’s commitment to their primary task of not only defending the rights of children to learn but also that of safeguarding, adhering and dedicating herself to working selflessly for the rights of teachers to teach.
Furthermore, this statement calls for joy to be brought back into the classroom by the teachers.
Again implicit in this mission statement is the fact that teachers must experience joy themselves first for them to be able to impart it to the learners in class.
This important feature sets NATU apart from other trade unions.
NATU’s six principles:
· Self-reliance and self-development
· Freedom of association and right to organise
· Professional approach to teaching inspired by children’s rights to learn.
· Political and religious non-alignment.
· Autonomy and independence.
· Enhancement of all aspects of the working life of educators.
NATU boasts and celebrates its 13 presidents:
· Reverend JH Xaba – 1918 – 1926
· Professor ZK Mathews – 1926 – 1929
· Mr AW Dlamini – 1929 – 1930
· Mr R Guma – 1931 – 1938
· Dr DGS Mthimkhulu – 1939 – 1953
· Mr MT Moerane – 1953 – 1956
· Mr PO Sikhakhane – 1956 – 1958
· Mr AJ Mwelase – 1958 – 1968
· Mr GT Hadebe – 1969 – 1970
· Mr TB Shandu – 1971 – 1979
· Professor AJ Thembela – 1979 -1996
· Dr MMA Shezi – 1996 – 2000
· Mr SL Ngcobo – 2000 – present
Current NATU president, Siphosethu Lindinkosi Ngcobo has been at the helm for the past 12 years and is described not only as a visionary and perfectionist but an individual who is passionate about the education profession.