Private school grouping reliev

St Dunstan’s College in Benoni. Image: St Dunstan’s College – Facebook

Private school grouping relieved over Feb. 1 opening, say teachers faced financial ruin

The National Alliance of Independent School Associations point out that while public sector teachers receive salaries even if schools are shut, it’s not the same with the private sector.

Private school grouping reliev

St Dunstan’s College in Benoni. Image: St Dunstan’s College – Facebook

“We’ve got teachers who lost their housing, who lost their cars, even their life insurances because there was no salary coming in,” said a relieved Mandla Mthembu, President of The National Alliance of Independent School Associations (NAISA) in reaction to the news that these institutions are allowed to open their doors on 1 February.

Mthembu said teachers would have faced financial ruin if private and independent schools remained shut, pointing out that while public sector schools remain closed, teachers continue to be paid.

“We are very happy with the news and the fact that the department has been sensitive to the plight of independent schools. They are aware that many of our schools have been under threat of closure and, some of our teachers have been retrenched because parents don’t pay when we are closed.”

Within the law

Amid the school opening-closed-opening saga, the Independent Schools Association of Southern Africa (Isasa) had previously said that private schools that had opted to remain open, despite governments’ plea for them to remain closed, were not breaking any laws.

The sharp spike in COVID-19 infections across the country had prompted the government to delay the reopening of all schools in an attempt to curb the spread of the virus.

Some independent schools had already started with teaching and learning when the Department of Basic Education announced that schools would only reopen in mid-February.

Isasa’s executive director Lebogang Montjane said: “There is no regulation that precludes an independent school from opening at this point in time, so it’s really important that those schools are not breaking the law if they have pupils on campus at the moment.”

Isasa said was unreasonable to expect schools to rearrange plans following government’s decision to postpone the reopening of schools.

“Some of our schools had to call in students this weekend to set them up for online learning, and I think it’s not reasonable to expect all schools to be ready to just shut down because you’ve made a media announcement, not a legal one.”

No risk

Mthembu added that private and independent schools account for 5% of pupils in the schooling system and the numbers do not pose a risk of overwhelming the healthcare system.

The Deputy Minister of Basic Education, Reginah Mhaule, announced on 15 January that public schools may only re-open on 15 February.

Government delayed the reopening of schools in the face of a resurgent coronavirus pandemic and to prevent additional pressure on the healthcare system.