Education department is happy with KZN schools to open on Monday, but unions disagree

05 June 2020 - 17:04
By Deepika Naidoo

The national department of basic education has given KwaZulu-Natal schools the thumbs-up to return to school on Monday but unions are adamant they are not ready.

On Friday, deputy education minister Regina Mhaule announced that she is happy for pupils to return to school. This after she visited three rural schools in Mtubatuba, northern KwaZulu-Natal: Siyathuthuka Primary School, Ikusasalethu High School and Ingaqa Full Service School.

Though schools in the area are waiting for the distribution of water tanks by the department of water & sanitation, Mhaule believes they are “99% ready”.

“From the three schools that I visited, especially since these schools are in an area of deep, rural KwaZulu-Natal, then it tells me that KZN is ready. They have all the PPEs and sanitation necessary,” said Mhaule.

Schools nationwide are being inspected to check their status ahead of their reopening after a directive from national education minister Angie Motshekga that grade 7 and matric pupils would return to school on June 8.

“As far as I’m concerned, schools are clean, yes they are old schools built by their communities. Yet in the state that they are, they are clean,” said Mhaule.

However, SA Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu) and National Teachers Union (Natu) members in Mtubatuba aren’t satisfied with the claims that pupils and members of staff are ready to return to school.

Delli Nene, deputy secretary of Sadtu in Mtubatuba, is concerned about the readiness of schools. She says that sanitation still needs to be dealt with.

“We don’t think the schools should be opened because sanitation hasn't been fixed. Some of the schools still use pit toilets, the tanks aren’t filled with water, this is why we aren’t happy,” said Nene.

Sadtu said the schools that were chosen to be inspected were not a true reflection of all the schools in KwaZulu-Natal.

“The department is just pointing to the schools that are the best. If the department could go into the deeper rural areas, they would see that they’re not ready,” said Nene.

At a meeting after the visit, between local education officials, unions, school governing bodies and the national department, some of the schools voiced concern about resuming the academic year when they weren't ready.

Natu's Vutelani Zikhala said that many assumptions were being made about the schools.

“We are far behind with the supply of water. The toilets in some schools are still under construction. They’re assuming that everything will be ready on Sunday. Some of the schools are allocated only one cleaner. What happens if they fall ill?” said Zikhala.