The South African Democratic Teachers’ Union (Sadtu) continues to block the implementation of principal-performance agreements across the country.

The implementation of the performance-agreement contracts, which will be used to hold principals accountable for the performance of pupils, is seen as vital to improving SA’s education system which has long been criticised for poor outcomes.

Sadtu has objected to the contracts, arguing that the government must first ensure that all principals, particularly those in poor schools, are adequately resourced and skilled to carry out their tasks before it judges their performance.

The plan to introduce performance contracts was mooted five years ago. Department of Basic Education director-general Mathanzima Mweli told Parliament’s basic education committee on Wednesday that talks with the unions about the contracts were continuing.

The department’s priorities for the 2014-19 period included improving the quality of teaching and learning through development, supply and effective utilisation of teachers, and strengthening accountability, Mweli said.

Sadtu deputy general secretary Nkosana Dolopi said there was "no need for performance contracts as principals had signed employment contracts with employers which state what they are required to do".

"What we are saying is the department should provide all the tools to make it possible for principals to do their work before they start judging performance. You have rich and poor schools. What system will they use to measure the principals from these different schools?" Dolopi asked.

"Principals in poor schools are disadvantaged. They do not have the tools, so the department should first fix the entire system before talking about performance contracts."

The DA has asked the committee chairwoman, Nomalungelo Gina, to summon Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga to explain the delay in the performance agreements. "Motshekga needs to stop caving in to Sadtu.… The children of this country deserve principals who perform excellently and when they don’t, are held to account," said DA MP and basic education spokesman Gavin Davis.

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