'We are not drunks,' say fuming KZN teachers after education MEC's 'slur'

28 May 2020 - 10:52
By Lwandile Bhengu
KwaZulu-Natal education MEC Kwazi Mshengu has apologised to teachers in the province after a comment regarding teachers and alcohol
Image: Sandile Ndlovu KwaZulu-Natal education MEC Kwazi Mshengu has apologised to teachers in the province after a comment regarding teachers and alcohol

KwaZulu-Natal MEC for education Kwazi Mshengu has apologised, saying his comment about teachers consuming alcohol was taken out of context and was not meant to offend.

During an interview on Ukzhozi FM on Wednesday evening, Mshengu was asked if the department was able to assure the safety of students and teachers. He said he was able to guarantee their safety in school but not outside.

Mshengu went on to speak about alcohol abuse by teachers and pupils, saying that the resumption of alcohol sales would be a major problem.

“There are some teachers who don't respect being teachers who only remember on Monday that they are teachers. There are a handful of teachers like that, if you were to meet them at the weekend you would deny that they are teachers. The reopening of alcohol sales will make things very complicated,” he said.

“I have seen instances of learners abusing alcohol and teachers drinking with learners and only remembering that they are teachers on Monday. In that instance, they may get infected in those places and come back to allege that the (Covid-19) infection happened in school,” Mshengu said.

His comments received major backlash from teachers on social media who said that the MEC had basically referred to them as “drunkards”.

“I have noticed the anger generated by this example made. At no point did I say teachers are drunkards nor that they come to school drunk. I only made mention of the instances I have come across on certain occasions. If the context of the example made gave rise to conclusion of an attack to teachers, that is regretted,” he said, adding that he realised that he should not have spoken about things outside school.

“To that extent, the example made was an error of judgment and therefore unreservedly retracted and apology extended to all those who found it offending,” he added.

In a statement issued on Wednesday teachers' union Sadtu said:

“Sadtu notes the demeaning and degrading of teachers by the MEC of education as they have been portrayed as people who are drunkards to the extent that during weekends it is even difficult to recognise them.

"These are the same teachers who work hard during the very same weekends and holidays teaching mostly without compensation. It is unfortunate that today the very same teachers had to sleep with such insults while expected to wake up and soldier on to the majority of schools that are not safe and non-compliant with Covid-19 measures.”

The union reiterated that it felt that the province's schools were not ready to open.

Mshengu said that he would be meeting unions so that they could tell him which schools weren't ready.