Just over a month after schools re-opened their doors for Grades 7 and 12, the South African Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu) has decided that classrooms should be suspended, pending the COVID-19 pandemic and surge in cases of the disease.
“The NEC upon receiving all provincial reports about the dire state of the system thus took the decision to call on the DBE to suspend all schooling activities with immediate effect until the peak of the pandemic rescinds”, said Sadtu Secretary-General Mugwena Maluleke during a virtual press briefing on Tuesday, 14 July 2020.
The union said it wants to meet with Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga on a way forward.
“The NEC further makes a call that whilst consideration should be made for the Gr 12s class in strictly controlled environments like camps, there should be consideration to align their examinations in line with the DHET so that the pressure and anxiety is addressed”, Maluleke further said.
The decision is an about-turn from Sadtu after it had joined other unions Naptosa, SAOU, Natu and PEU, as well as the School Governing Body Associations, in giving the go-ahead for pupils to return to school.
On Monday, 6 July 2020, Grades R, 6 and 11 returned to school – another unpopular decision by the department which sparked backlash.
The union said it wasn’t about “power play” but a genuine consideration that learning can’t take place under the current conditions and also cited several challenges already faced by the education sector in the wake of the lockdown.
“A significant number of schools are already experiencing a high number of absenteeism due to the anxiety and fear that both learners and teachers are experiencing”
Maluleke also said they would not be approaching the courts to force the department to close schools as many have lost in that respect, but that they would instead engage Motshekga and decide on an alternative plan of action, should all fail.
So far, the department has won favour from the courts after several failed bids to block the reopening of schools. The latest is one by former Democratic Alliance (DA) leader Mmusi Maimane and his One South Africa Movement, who had approached the Constitutional Court.