Teachers' union gives resounding 'no' to schools reopening next week

29 April 2020 - 16:54 By Ernest Mabuza
Sadtu says no schools can open until safety concerns are met.
Sadtu says no schools can open until safety concerns are met.
Image: paylessimages / 123RF Stock Photo

The South African Democratic Teachers’ Union (Sadtu) said on Wednesday it stood firm that no school should open until its concerns were met.

Sadtu was reacting to the presentation by the director-general of basic education Mathanzima Mweli to the parliamentary education portfolio committee on Wednesday regarding the reopening of schools.

He said that schools would start opening from May 6 - but this was swiftly rebutted.

The union on Friday last week urged the basic education department to comply with minimum requirements before schools reopen, which it articulated in 14 points.

Sadtu said on Wednesday that it stood by this.

These points include:

  • the fumigation and disinfection of schools;
  • proper school infrastructure in the form of proper toilet facilities;
  • observance of social distancing inside the classrooms and on courtyards;
  • reduction of class sizes;
  • provision of soap, sanitisers and masks;
  • screening of pupils, teachers and support personnel;
  • social distancing in the transportation of pupils to and from schools; and
  • provision of psychosocial services - "to assist learners as well as teachers to build resilience and calm down fears among learners and teachers," it said.

The union said if level 4 regulations were to be adhered to, there should be no reopening of schools.

"The minister [of basic education, Angie Motshekga] should meet stakeholders before any announcement is made and after making sure that the department of health has expertly assessed the risks," it said.

Sadtu accused Motshekga of acting in bad faith, adding that this was undesirable when the country had a pandemic.

"We can’t allow them to liquidate our workers and students. We stand firm that no schools shall open until our concerns are met," said the union.

Meanwhile, the Western Cape education department said on Wednesday that it would not be in a position to receive pupils at schools next week.

MEC Debbie Schäfer said in the presentation to parliament on Wednesday that the department of basic education's dates were tentative, not definite, and did not constitute an official announcement. This has caused understandable confusion and anxiety for schools, teachers and parents, she added.

"The national minister of basic education is scheduled to make an announcement tomorrow [Thursday] morning on the plan to reopen schools and we will be in a position to comment in more detail after that. However, we won't be able to receive learners next week," said Schäfer.

Every day, hundreds of Covid-19 testers are at the forefront of the fight against coronavirus in South Africa. For Bhelekazi Mdlalose, nursing is more than just a job, it is a passion. Mdlalose is a registered nurse and Covid-19 tester working for Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) in partnership with the Department of Health. TimesLIVE followed a day in her life to see what it is like being in the frontline amidst the Covid-19 pandemic.