grade 10 schools learners WCED

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Unions express concern about reopening of schools ahead of briefing

On Monday, Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga and Higher Education, Science and Innovation Minister Blade Nzimande are expected to announce details around the reopening of educational institutions.

grade 10 schools learners WCED

Photo: Adobe Stock

A leaked national COVID-19 curriculum recovery plan document by Motshekga’s department stated last week that pupils in grades 12 and 7 could be the first to return to school on May 6, while grades 11 and 6 were scheduled to return on May 20, with all the remaining grades expected to return in June and July.

However, this phased approach to reopening schools, have drawn some strong comment from the South African Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu).

Sadtu: ‘Corpses can neither be taught nor can they teach’

According to IOL, Sadtu has lashed out, saying: “Corpses can neither be taught nor can they teach”. 

“We are concerned about the readiness of the provincial departments with regard to the availability of health and safety essentials that have to be put in place in the learning institutions at least two weeks before any activity can take place,” it said.

Gauteng MEC for Education Panyaza Lesufi said he hopes that matric learners would be allowed to go back to school and resume their normal classes. However, he said, Gauteng will not risk the lives of learners and he is awaiting Motshekga’s announcement on the way forward on Monday 27 April.

The virtual briefing is set to take place at 14:00 and is details around the reopening of educational institutions are expected to be delivered to the nation. 

Naptosa: ‘Lives of teachers, learners before matric pass rates’

National Professional Teachers’ Organisation of South Africa (Naptosa) executive director Basil Manual also weighed in on the matter of the phased reopening of schools.

“Our union puts the lives of teachers and learners before matric pass rates. It is unfortunate that discussion documents on the re-opening of schools have leaked into the public domain and have created panic and anxiety.

“Ultimately the date of return will be determined by the minister of basic education taking her cue from the minister of health [Zweli Mkhize] and the National Command Council (NCC) led by the President Cyril Ramaphosa.”

Teachers, parents fearful of return

Manuel said that some teachers are fearful of returning to schools as they do not want to compromise their own families if the become infected in the school environment.

“Parents are also fearful of sending their children to school. I’ve received more than 30 letters from concerned parents. These are real social concerns that we need addressed before any decisions are made,” Manuel told IOL.

“I don’t know what the minister’s response is going to be, but it does seem as though the opening of schools on May 6 is unlikely. But we have to hear from her and the DG.”

Social distancing and boarding schools

According to Manuel, Naptosa will not agree or support any return to school if the basics regarding social distancing, gloves, masks (PPE) and other necessary measures are not already in place on the return date.

In a statement on its website, Naptosa also said that ]the union is aware of considerations being given to Grade 12 learners being accommodated at boarding schools.

“This is definitely not supported by Naptosa because there are no guarantees that COVID-19 protocols will be observed. Also, there was no consultation with us and the thousands of concerned parents in this regard.”

Twitter response

Twitter users have also expressed their concern about the reopening of schools.

Lockdown vandalism, burglaries at schools

The Department of Basic Education has also expressed concern at the number of schools that have been vandalised or suffered break-ins during the lockdown period.

According to a statement by the department released on Friday 17 April, learning and teaching equipment was stolen, along with other expensive items, at 397 schools across the country. 

The provincial breakdown of the number of vandalised schools are as follows:

  • Mpumalanga – 73; 
  • Gauteng – 67;
  • Western Cape – 57; 
  • North West – 55; 
  • Northern Cape – 39 schools; 
  • KwaZulu-Natal – 34; 
  • Limpopo – 30; 
  • Eastern Cape – 26; and 
  • Free State – 16. 

Blade Nzimande to release HSRC survey on Sunday 26 April

Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation Blade Nzimande, will release the outcome of the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) survey on Sunday.

This is the second part of the public perception survey on the impact of the coronavirus on South Africans.