The South African Democratic Teachers’ Union (Sadtu) has called on the department of basic education to not limit their support in providing protective gear and basic hygiene to only two provinces – the Gauteng and Western Cape provincial education departments.
“The department [of education] must work harder to assist other provinces. Wherever Gauteng and the Western Cape were assisted, all other provinces must be assisted too,” Sadtu general secretary Mugwena Maluleke pleaded.
On Tuesday he told City Press that he was perplexed as to “why there was so much pressure to rush when schools are not ready”.
“During these difficult times, I don’t think that there is a single person who does not want to go back to work, but the safety of workers must be guaranteed.
“Once we know that preventative measures are in place and that workers are safe, then we can take a step forward,” Maluleke said.
Maluleke’s sentiments come after school management teams were expected to report to schools on Monday, May 11 and teachers on May 18 as announced by Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga last month. She also said schools would reopen on June 1 for Grade 7 and 12 pupils.
Read: Schools may reopen in a month for Grades 7 and 12
“On Friday, we were flooded with circulars from a number of provinces, including KwaZulu-Natal, Northern Cape and Limpopo, informing us that they are not ready,” he told City Press.
“Gauteng and the Western Cape were the only two provinces which said that they would be ready, but only on Wednesday [May 13].”
The phased reopening of schools in the country was set to commence on Monday with management teams expected back at work on the same day.
Maluleke said that because most provinces were not fully prepared, going ahead with this would “undermine the national education act, as only two provinces were reported as being ready this week”.
“According to the Act [National Education Policy Act] the school calendar must begin congruently and simultaneously for everyone. We cannot have a situation where some schools start operating before others because this will be perpetuating inequalities already experienced in the country where we say, those who have must continue while those who don’t must be left behind.”
“It would be undermining the act to have two provinces [Gauteng and Western Cape] start this week, because how then will closing dates be controlled?”
Maluleke said the reopening of schools was dependent on a number of strict Covid-19 coronavirus related conditions and ensuring that the safety of workers and pupils were put first.
“We believe our request is not unreasonable,” Maluleke told City Press.
“Personal protective equipment has not been procured for the office based personnel, educators and support staff, and we know that any work place must screen workers coming in as they enter. This is important.”
He added that learning would not be the same upon resumption.
“We can no longer rush into teaching maths as a first lesson,” he said.
“It must be about life skills first. All teachers must start with hygiene lessons until learners fully understand.
“Teach children to constantly wash their hands, how to correctly wear their masks and deal with the uncomfortableness of the mask and such. Sequence learners as the come into the school yard and such things,” Maluleke said.
In a statement released on Friday, the union told its members not to report for duty on Monday as per the minister’s announcement.
“Sadtu will not allow any of her members to report for duty on Monday because the department of basic education has failed to meet the minimum requirements to ensure safety as per Covid-19 Alert level 4,” the statement read.
Schools nationwide closed in the second week of March as South Africans continued to grapple with the Covid-19 outbreak and subsequent spread.
Motshekga is expected to announce the final proposal concerning the phased approach to reopening schools on Thursday.