Cosas threatens to shut down all private schools: what you need to know

The student group says having private schools open while public schools are closed is not fair

28 July 2020 - 15:08 By Unathi Nkanjeni
The Congress of SA Students (Cosas) threatens to shut down all private schools in the country.
The Congress of SA Students (Cosas) threatens to shut down all private schools in the country.
Image: File/ Sandile Ndlovu

The Congress of SA Students (Cosas) has threatened to shut down all private schools in the country that remain open during the four-week Covid-19 break for public schools.

The group argued that having them open while public schools are closed is not fair.

Here is what you need to know:

Four-week break

The threats to shut down private schools comes after President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that public schools will close from July 27 to August 24, to help combat the surge in infections.

Grade 12 pupils and teachers will break for one week and return on August 3. Grade 7 pupils will take a two-week break, returning to school on August 10.

Private schools are expected to remain open even after the school holidays.

Ramaphosa also said the current academic year will go beyond 2020.

“As a result of the disruptions caused by the pandemic, the current academic year will be extended beyond the end of 2020. The minister of basic education will provide details on the management of the remainder of the school year,” Ramaphosa said in his address.

Shutdown

Speaking on eNCA, Cosas president Douglas Ngobeni said the process of shutting down private schools was under way.

Ngobeni said private schools were trying to make a profit in the midst of a pandemic and that the student body was trying to “save lives”.

“We are trying to save lives of our brothers and sisters,” said Ngobeni. “The lives of our South Africans matter more than profit or any other business arrangement. Our children are taken to private schools not necessarily because they are privileged, [but] because these masters want to make profit.”

Academic advantage 

Head of Cosas' political department Thabang Mamaila told Power 98.7 that the closure of public schools would give private schools a further academic advantage.

Mamaila said the shutdown was a peaceful “non-entry protest” that would be held at all private schools.

He said the closure of public schools only proved “a point of inequalities within our educational sector”.

“We are not saying we want the curriculum to stop going on. If there’s any school at any point that is able to have non-contact learning they must continue,” said Mamaila.

“We have been crying to our government that we want non-contact learning. We want to learn in the comfort of our homes where we are safe.”

Isasa reacts

Reacting to the threatened shutdown, Independent Schools Association of Southern Africa's (Isasa) executive director Lebogang Montjane said it made no sense.

On Monday, Montjane said private schools were continuing with e-learning and that no students, teachers, or staff are at the school premises.

“We are grateful to be living in a country with laws because they have been a few Cosas members who have gone outside our campuses ... but they do not have permission to protest,” said Montjane.

Last week, he also said that private schools were well-equipped to manage with Covid-19 infrastructure, compared with public schools.

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