western cape SAHRC School

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Western Cape schools may be forced to close by Human Rights Commission

For the Western Cape Education Department, it’s a case of ‘no going back’ after they became the first province to open their schools. But SAHRC have other ideas.

western cape SAHRC School

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The Western Cape was the only province which sent learners to class on Monday – but their defiance of the government’s last-minute change to the ‘back to school’ rules could be punished via the courts, after the SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) filed a case against the regional Education Department.

Angie Motshekga and her ministry confirmed late on Sunday that students would only be expected back on Monday 8 June. The adjustment, however, was made less than 12 hours before many schools were planning to reopen their gates, leaving a large number of South Africans in the lurch.

Will Western Cape schools stay open this week? SAHRC are fighting to close them

The DA-run area has argued that regulations in the government gazette – which still permit schools to restart on Monday 1 June – trump the authority of a hastily-issued press statement. Debbie Schafer, the Western Cape Minister of Education, had this to say on Sunday:

“Whilst we are aware of the many anxieties surrounding Covid-19, keeping classrooms closed indefinitely is not going to resolve them. The South African Paediatric Association has come out in favour of the phased re-opening. We’re taking every precaution, but the longer schools remain closed, the poor will suffer.”

“The disingenuous arguments by some that all places should open simultaneously do not hold water. They argue that the poor will be left behind. Well, the reality is that the poor are being left behind now, as wealthier schools or parents have the means to continue online. Our facilities are overwhelmingly ready.”

Debbie Schafer

Legal chaos lies ahead for WCED

But the hubris shown in the south-west could be very short-lived. Angie Motshekga stated on Monday that facilities must only open for “orienteering purposes” this week. And the Human Rights Commission revealed that they are challenging the WCED in court, registering their case on Monday. If SAHRC are successful, then the province will be forced to temporarily shut down their schools again until 8 June: