A proposal to delay the reopening of schools is expected to be made by education authorities to the national coronavirus command council .
City Press has learnt that education stakeholders met with the department of basic education director-general Mathanzima Mweli on Wednesday to discuss the matter.
Two unions and a national school governing body organisation have confirmed that it was agreed that the department would propose the delay of the reopening of schools on January 27 to a later date in February.
Chris Klopper, CEO of the Suid-Afrikaanse Onderwysers Unie, told City Press on Thursday that they were aware of the proposal.
He said they participated in a consultative meeting until 9pm on Wednesday.
“The recommendation was to close schools until mid-February,” Klopper said.
He gave the following reasons:
- Research in the UK and South Korea has shown that there was a marked increase in Covid-19 infections after the reopening of schools;
- There was no arrangement in place for teachers with comorbidities as last year’s collective agreement with the department has lapsed;
- There were no masks for new Grade 1 and Grade 8 pupils;
- There were no specific directions for the new level 3 lockdown regulations; and
- Sanitisers have to be replenished in schools.
Basil Manuel, executive director of the National Professional Teachers’ Union of SA (Naptosa), said in a statement sent to the union’s members on Thursday that, based on the views of the scientists and the World Health Organisation (WHO), the department will be making proposals to the command council on the reopening of schools.
“Naptosa will support any proposal to delay the reopening until the peak infection period has passed. In discussions with the department on this matter, Naptosa therefore supported a delay of not less than 14 days. For now, we await the decision of the coronavirus command council and the finalisation of the dates. Members will be kept informed of the situation,” the union’s statement reads.
Matakanya Matakanye, general secretary of the National Association of School Governing Bodies (NASGB), said they had noted the proposed postponement by two weeks from the initial date of January 27.
He said they also supported the proposal, but needed more information.
Matakanye said the command council had reported the extent to which the country’s hospitals were being overwhelmed with admissions, which continued to pose a serious threat as the new Covid-19 variant continued to infect people across the country.
“The NASGB is concerned that full disclosure on the proposal is not availed and we need full information as disclosed by both the national command council and the department itself. We equally hope the department will avail full information as soon as possible,” the statement reads.
Matakanye said they were disturbed by the department not adhering to the standard operating procedures for the containment and management of Covid-19 in schools.
“Schools are still without adequate water supply, some are without toilets. In hostel schools, some pupils are still sharing rooms in big numbers and they are becoming superspreaders. Our school governing bodies have indicated that there are no adequate classrooms during staggered reopening as was implemented.
“We therefore call on the department to avoid its current knee-jerk approach on matters of life and death. A full disclosure on the proposal on the postponement of reopening for further engagement is sought,” the statement reads.
Manuel told City Press that the department had proposed February 15.
However, he said the NCCC will spell out the exact dates on the recommendations of the department and they were waiting for that this afternoon.
South African Democratic Teacher’s Union spokesperson Nomusa Cembi said they called for the reopening of schools to be delayed until the peak period has passed.
“This in line with what WHO has called for that the reopening of schools should be delayed when the pandemic is rising,” Cembi said.
This is a developing story.