- The Department of Basic Education has faced increasing calls for schools to be closed during the Covid-19 pandemic.
- Cosas has forcibly closed schools in a number province in recent weeks.
- The Gauteng education department has labelled the actions "pure criminality".
Members of the Congress of South African Students (Cosas) have shut down five high schools and eight primary schools in Alexandra, Johannesburg.
The organisation says it is to prevent pupils from being infected with the coronavirus.
Alexandra Cosas leader Mpumelelo Maringa said this followed increasing numbers of Covid-19 cases in the area.
"There are several schools that have confirmed cases. We can't risk learners' lives by sending them to school. As Cosas, we are declaring a total shutdown of all schools including primary schools.
"We advise all learners to stay away from schools, and parents not to send their children to schools starting from Monday until further notice," said Maringa.READ | Q&A with Cosas: Some ANC leaders want schools open 'for their own business arrangements'
Cosas claimed its actions were endorsed by all parents, teachers' unions and the Gauteng Department of Education. But provincial department spokesperson Steve Mabona denied this, labelling the action as "pure criminality that should be discouraged".
"There were several meetings held with all stakeholders in Alexandra to avert the threat by Cosas from closing down the schools, but unfortunately there was no agreement. As a result, Cosas, supported by Sadtu [SA Democratic Teachers’ Union], Nehawu [National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union], Cosatu, and the NSGBA [National Schools Governing Body Association], continued to disrupt schools.
"We will be meeting tomorrow [Wednesday] to find an amicable solution," said Mabona.
He said some Alexandra schools had already been closed, not by Cosas, but because of confirmed Covid-19 cases.
READ | Cosas Limpopo's plea to pupils to abandon classes amid Covid-19 peak falls on deaf ears
When GroundUp visited the area on Monday, most schools were closed. Several security guards at the schools told GroundUp Cosas had "instructed”" the schools to close.
East Bank Secondary School was open, but pupils were sitting outside.
There were police cars outside the school. The school principal refused to comment, referring us to School Governing Body member Kenneth Vickerman who said he was in full support of the closure.
"On one side the government is digging graves and on the other they are forcing us to take our kids to school. We know that those graves are for us the poor and our children. As a parent, once again I want to repeat that I pledge my full support to Cosas and I think all parents should do the same," said Vickerman.