'Recipe for disaster': Parents and teachers ask Motshekga not to reopen schools

29 April 2020 - 06:45
Basic education minister Angie Motshekga's request for public feedback has seen people across SA express concern over the department's plan to reopen schools.
Image: Gallo Images Basic education minister Angie Motshekga's request for public feedback has seen people across SA express concern over the department's plan to reopen schools.

An invitation by the basic education department to the public to send through the most important questions they would like to ask minister Angie Motshekga when she addresses the nation has opened a can of worms.

The department was inundated with tweets from parents and teachers who overwhelmingly called for schools to remain closed because of serious concerns over the spread of the coronavirus.

Some described the reopening of schools as “suicidal” and “a recipe for disaster”.

Smangaliso Sibiya, a teacher in KwaMashu, north of Durban, said at his school there were 350 grade 8 pupils in five classes, some without desks.

“Those who have [desks] are seated in threes. They do not have textbooks and the few that they have are shared,” he said.

Sibiya asked how social distancing could be achieved when he has 47 learners in one class and there is so little space he “can barely walk through the classroom”.

Another teacher, Tebogo Magano from Warrenton, in the Northern Cape, asked how the department would deal with teachers and pupils with underlying conditions like cancer, asthma and bronchitis.

Phyl Mbali wrote: “I'm not sending my son back when this virus is at its peak. NOT HAPPENING.”

Natasha van Heerden wrote: “Schools should not be reopening now — full stop.”

A writer identifying as “jirehforjay” asked: “What's more important, saving the academic year or keeping our kids safe at home?”

A tweet from Vuyisile Mpiyakhe read: “I wonder why do you want teachers and learners to return to school. Do you want blood on your hands?”

Lesiba Maja wrote: “Opening schools will be suicidal. We need to wait until August or September.”

Cate Likhoele asked: “Are people's lives not more important than certificates and curriculum?”

Shaveer Khan, a matric pupil with a diabetic father, said if schools reopened and he became infected with the virus, “I could be placing my dad's life in danger”.

Trish wrote: “Life first — schools can always wait.”

'You must be responsive'

Basil Manuel, executive director of the National Professional Teachers' Organisation of SA (Naptosa), said that while inviting the public to forward questions to the minister was a good way to bring democracy to the people, “you must be responsive to what they are going to say”.

He asked whether the department would be responding to the tweets.

“Virtually all the tweets are echoing what the unions have put on the table, such as sorting out overcrowding and social distancing in schools, health protocols and the school feeding scheme.”

Basic education department spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga took to Twitter to invite the nation to forward the most important question they would like to ask Motshekga after a media briefing scheduled for Monday was postponed.

“Share your thoughts,” he wrote.

Motshekga and her counterpart from higher education, Blade Nzimande, were to have given an update on their areas of work in relation to the Covid-19 lockdown.

He said the postponement of the meeting was “necessitated by the need to align with other interventions that are to be taken by the National Coronavirus Command Council later this week”.

Mhlanga did not respond to e-mailed questions about his invitation to the public to send questions to Motshekga.