'Schools are not ready to open on Monday' - unions, governing bodies

29 May 2020 - 15:32 By Kgaugelo Masweneng
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Basic education minister Angie Motshekga.
Basic education minister Angie Motshekga.
Image: Gallo Images

Five teachers' unions and three school governing body associations say schools are not ready to reopen on Monday — and have called on those who are ready to stay closed in solidarity with the unprepared schools.

In joint statement issued on Friday afternoon, the organisations said basic education minister Angie Motshekga needed to reverse her decision that matrics and grade 7s restart school on Monday.

The group said most provincial departments had not yet delivered personal protective equipment to schools and many school buildings had not yet been sanitised.

“Taking all these conditions into consideration, unions and national school governing body associations agree that it would be a grievous mistake to force the reopening of schools on June 1.

“It is believed that the minister should retract her announcement in this regard and delay any further announcement to give the system more time to ready itself for a common reopening, because if not, we will see a haphazard reopening situation,” the statement read.

It was issued by trade unions Sadtu, Naptosa, SAOU, PEU and Natu, as well as the Federation of School Governing Bodies of SA, the National Association of School Governing Bodies and the Governing Body Foundation.

“We do not believe it to be in the best interests of children to return to schools when we know that uncertainty concerning their health and safety reigns.

“Most provincial departments have not been able to deliver PPEs [personal protective equipment], for all returning members and teachers. PPEs for learners have not arrived at schools, despite earlier assurances that they are housed in warehouses in the provinces. Many schools have not been cleaned and disinfected as per the direction of the department of employment and labour.

The organisations called on “all schools” not to reopen, even if some of them were ready.

“We call on all schools, even those that might be ready to reopen, having received all the necessary materials for teachers and learners, not to reopen until the non-negotiables have been delivered to all schools and to inform their learners accordingly.

“To further contribute to disparities between schools would be irresponsible. The reaction of the Western Cape to the call not to commence with the opening of schools will be closely scrutinised, especially whether they will show solidarity with the plight of other provinces and, indeed, sympathy with the plight of thousands of our teachers and children across the nation,” said the organisations.

They believe that if the PPEs were not delivered by Friday, chances were slim that all schools would have them on Monday.

Another concern was teacher readiness to incorporate the new curriculum in light of Covid-19.

“No teacher should be expected to work in the dark and no learner should be taught inappropriate content. Over and above the curriculum, teachers also need time to be trained on how to operate in the Covid-19 environment. With so many teachers not returning to schools this week, this essential training is seriously lacking.” 

The unions and governing bodies will meet the minister and education MECs on Saturday to discuss their concerns.

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