A tough situation has just got a whole lot worse for Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga. The department is facing a nightmare confrontation with its staff after the South African Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu) called for the immediate suspension of schools across the country.
The news comes on the same day that the ministry issued a fierce open letter to critics who wanted classrooms closed until the peak of the coronavirus epidemic has subsided.
Spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga stressed that the Education Department is following the science, and vowed not to be intimidated by ‘tabloid experts’. There are now very clear reasons for why the strain is showing.
An unhappy union representing thousands of workers speaks for itself. Sadtu is not a lone voice in this regard, either. The Educators Union of South Africa launched their bid to close schools down on Monday, and encouraged parents to keep their children home at all costs.
However, it is Sadtu’s dramatic announcement that puts Motshekga and her colleagues in a very difficult position. Already contending with the organised ‘school stay-aways’ each Friday, the latest union directives could see more educators refuse to turn up for work, bringing the school year to a screeching halt.
During a press conference, Sadtu Secretary-general Mugwena Maluleke told the public that they will not take their case to court, but rather, they will hope to get Motshekga onside and cooperate with the government. He’s also told teachers that they can continue to work this week, but must not attend from Monday onwards:
“The rate of infection calls for the closure of schools for safety reasons. The Department of Education must use the peak period to prepare for schools to reopen and fix the challenges faced by the education sector. this is not a power play but it’s a consideration that learning can continue under these circumstances.”
“Schools are opening and closing with a high absentee rate in both teachers and learners due to anxiety linked to this pandemic. The DBE must, therefore, suspend classes with immediate effect. Rather than going to court, Sadtu will engage Angie Motshekga. If that fails, we’ll decide on an effective program of action.”Sadtu Secretary-general Mugwena Maluleke
Breaking News: Teachers Union Sadtu has resolved that schools need to close after its special NEC this morning.#Covid19inSA— Jacaranda News (@JacaNews) July 14, 2020