Teachers union breathes fire – We will not allow schools to be open



Teachers union reiterates it will not allow the reopening until certain conditions are met.

Thousands of South Africa’s schools may not be ready to reopen under government’s operating guidelines, affected organisations have warned. This despite government making a last-minute postponement to the early May reopening dates for teachers and later, pupils.

The department of education and its minister, Angie Motshekga, had a difficult task ahead preparing schools to operate during a national disaster for fear of a surge of Covid-19 infections.

According to the Governing Body Foundation, many public schools were not in a position to provide the necessary space for social distancing, despite the plan to gradually phase in two grades at a time.

Classrooms were simply not big enough, while other schools did not have enough classrooms.

The foundation’s CEO, Anthea Cerestero, said she understood the pressure on government to act fast, but urged schools to be allowed flexibility in terms of the time it would realistically take to be ready.

“We made our concerns known when we were participating in the consultation with the department of education on Sunday. The presentation we saw today was basically the same, except the changes in certain dates. It was clear to us then that government may not quite have the implementation readiness required for this,” said Cerestero.

As the South African Democratic Teachers’ Union (Sadtu) continued to threaten it would not allow schools to reopen until their concerns around school readiness were met, Ceresero suggested even government may not have accurately calculated how schools would be prepared to reopen in the next two weeks.

Among urgent measures to be put in place in the country’s 25 000 public schools, over 3 000 schools were to receive upgrades to water and sanitation access.

“There may be some theoretical documents on the standard operating practices for hygiene and sanitation and instructional videos on how to do those things, but how to implement those rules under various circumstances is going to be very difficult.

“The plan may not fit all of the schools by the dates that have been set.”

Sadtu remained resolute in its reaction to yesterday’s pronouncements.

“Sadtu stands firm on its position which was articulated on Friday that no school shall open until our concerns are met,” said general secretary Mugwena Maluleke in a statement.

The union gave government homework to address 14 points on the readiness of schools, including fumigation and disinfection of schools, school infrastructure in the form of proper toilet facilities, observance of social distancing inside classrooms, protective gear and scholar transport. But the union added another curveball to the department.

“The minister should meet with stakeholders before any announcement is made and after making sure that the department of health has expertly assessed the risks,” said Maluleke.

The department’s apparent suggestion that SA faced minimal risk of the virus spreading in large numbers at schools was met with concern and anger.

“We reject importing the Taiwan, China, Denmark and Singapore misrepresentation by the director-general. The context and culture are not the same,” said Maluleke.

– The Citizen

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