Unions say SA teachers are not ready, challenge Western Cape

01 June 2020 - 08:07 By TimesLIVE
Pupils in grades 7 and 12 are expected to return to school first.
Pupils in grades 7 and 12 are expected to return to school first.
Image: Hennie Homann

Teachers still require training on the curtailed 2020 curriculum and on health and safety protocols, SA's education trade unions say.

In response to Sunday's night's last-minute cancellation of school resuming for grades 7 and 12, which had been expected for Monday, the unions called for basic education minister Angie Motshekga to “show leadership.”

Schooling for Grade 7 and Grade 12 pupils is now scheduled to start on June 8, with this week used to ensure teachers were orientated and had received their required personal protective equipment (PPE).

This decision was taken after meetings with the council of education ministry (CEM) on Saturday, when Motshekga said she learned around 20% of schools would not be ready to reopen.

In a statement, the National Professional Teachers' Organisation of SA (Naptosa), Professional Educators Union (Peu), National Teachers Union (Natu), SA Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu) and Suid-Afrikaanse Onderwysersunie (SAOU) said after the weekend meeting, they were promised feedback, but this did not come through until the statement which was released after two cancellations of the media briefing, and despite an undertaking in the meeting by the minister on behalf of the CEM.

“We want to put on record that the date of June 8 was never mentioned in the meeting because the focus was on readying the system and ensuring that all the provinces comply with the 12 non-negotiables.

“The astounding confusion caused by the statement must be condemned because the department of basic education is obsessed with dates and ignoring the evidence of provincial readiness. The lack of appreciation for evidence can only be characterised as irresponsible and negligent,” the statement from the unions read.

The unions rejected a staggered opening of schools, and lashed out at the Western Cape, which said during the confusion on Sunday evening that it was ready to proceed from Monday. Some schools in the province advised parents they would not reopen, pending clarity.

“No school must be left behind, especially not because of incompetence and tardiness. Given the historical injustices of the past, it is obvious which schools will be left behind should a staggered approach to schools reopening be followed. This we cannot allow, no matter the justification.

“The attitude of the Western Cape to define itself outside the collective must not be allowed. SA is one country and their insistence to go it alone undermines the unitary nature of our education system. We are not only going to scrutinise but also challenge their motive. This is a time to show solidarity with the plight of other provinces and sympathy with the plight of thousands of our teachers and children across the nation.”

The unions said schools across the country must prioritise the training of  teachers on the amended curriculum and allow teachers the professional autonomy to help pupils as and when they finally return to schools.

In addition, teachers need time to be trained on how to operate in the Covid-19 environment. With so many teachers not returning to schools last week, this essential training is seriously lacking.

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

The unions called for a meeting with the minister on Thursday “for genuine assessment and engagement about the readiness of the system”.

“Parents, learners, teachers and education workers can be assured that we all wish schooling to resume as soon as possible, but not at the expense of their health and safety.”