Mixed reactions from political parties over Sadtu's call for schools to close

A school classroom being sanitised.
A school classroom being sanitised.
OJ Koloti, Gallo Images
  • Political parties have largely welcomed Sadtu's resolution calling for the closure of schools, with the DA outwardly rejecting the move as "reckless".
  • The EFF said the Department of Basic Education should be using this period to fix structural issues within the country's schools instead of forcing pupils to "learn in the face of death".
  • The ANC said the department should consider some of the objections raised, with maximum vigilance in the face of a Covid-19 peak being a priority.

While the DA has outwardly rejected calls by the South African Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu) for the closure of schools, the EFF and ANC have taken a different approach, with the former saying it was about time unions acted in the interests of society.

On Tuesday, Sadtu resolved at a national executive committee meeting schools should close until the Covid-19 peak had passed.

This follows remarks from President Cyril Ramaphosa that South Africa was now in the pandemic's storm, which is characterised by a sharp peak of infections.

Sadtu's secretary-general, Mugwena Maluleke, said it was clear no effective teaching and learning at schools would take place under the current conditions.

ALSO READ | Schools should close until Covid-19 peak passes, Sadtu resolves

In a statement, the DA, described the move as "nothing short of reckless", and a deliberate attempt to disrupt the completion of the academic year.

"We urge parents and teachers to guard against this recklessness as most schools are going above and beyond to keep their children safe," said DA MPs Nomsa Marchesi and Belinda Bozzoli in a joint statement.

The party said those advocating for the closure of schools failed to understand how damaging this would be for the academic progress of pupils, claiming it was the worst form of grandstanding which showed no consideration for the reality of millions of pupils.

"Many learners and teachers simply do not have access to the relevant internet or technological resources to make distance learning a success," said the two.

They added millions of children would face "imminent hunger" because they depended on school feeding schemes for their daily meals.

Marchesi and Bozzoli also raised concerns over the Covid-19 essentials already procured, saying the closure meant money spent would have been in vain.

"They want to bury our dreams as black people. Angie [Motshekga] and Cyril Ramaphosa are committed to burying the dreams of black families in those 1.5 million graves they have dug up … this is a systematic plan to depopulate South Africa," EFF national spokesperson Vuyani Pambo told News24.

Mass murder

The EFF - which has been against the reopening of schools from when discussions around the matter were still taking place - said the unions, just like the president on the resumption on the sale of alcohol products, have finally come to the party that sending children back to school was "committing them to mass murder".

Pambo said this was a great opportunity to use this period to build and refurbish schools to ensure no child in the country was forced to learn under a tree or attended classrooms in mud schools.

"Education is not just the classroom. One also needs to be in the right frame of mind, the right kind of environment, which means an enabling physical, psychological and emotional space to learn. But how is this possible in the face of death?

"They are being asked to close off the reality of death while learning and even if they survive our children must live with the guilt of possibly infecting their parents who might die".

Pambo said the EFF hoped SADTU would not change along the way, adding the union should always choose the people first.

Apprehension 

The ANC's national spokesperson, Pule Mabe, told News24 the party understood SADTU's resolutions and concerns, along with similar sentiments which had been raised by the Congress of South African Students - an affiliate of the ANC.

He said the ANC hoped the Department of Basic Education would look into the apprehensions that had been raised.

"The manner in which Covid-19 is spiking here in our country requires vigilance across all sectors same as we were with alcohol with public transport.

We are losing teachers and learners are getting infected".

Mabe added if there was an alternative way to allow for learning it should also be discussed, once again emphasising the need for "maximum vigilance", as infections surged.

He said SADTU, which is an affiliate of ANC alliance partner Cosatu, had an alliance political council and alliance secretariat to raise such matters.

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