Covid-19: Sadtu backs keeping schools closed for now, minister to brief nation today

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Learners in a classroom.(File)
Learners in a classroom.(File)
Roger Sedres, Gallo Images
  • Sadtu says keeping schools closed for now due to the Covid-19 second wave is supported by all unions.
  • Schools were due to reopen on 25 January for teachers and 27 January for pupils.
  • Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga will brief the nation about the 2021 academic year on Friday.

South Africa's biggest teachers' union, the South African Democratic Teachers' Union (Sadtu), is in support of a delay in the opening of schools amid the Covid-19 second wave.

The union said for the past two weeks it was making the nation aware that the World Health Organisation and Unesco have highlighted the importance of education, emphasising that schools should reopen when safe to do so.

It added that it believed science and research supported that numbers must be declining for 14 consecutive days for schools to be able to reopen safely.

In an update on Thursday, the union said having consulted the Department of Basic Education along with other unions, the National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC) proposed a delay of two weeks to curb the virus and assist the health system to cope during the wave.

READ | Covid-19: National Coronavirus Command Council wants reopening of schools postponed

"The delay in opening was supported by all unions because it was based not on politics and wishful thinking but was anchored around science and hard evidence. The learners might report around 15 February 2021, depending [on] the virus' behaviour during the two-week delay," Sadtu said. 

Issues of how teachers will be reporting for work from 25 January as well as readiness will still be discussed in other consultative meetings with the department. 

Sadtu said it has asked members who are principals to complete a survey on the issues, which include teachers, personal protective equipment and other health and safety matters. 

The union said: 

We urge our members to do it all as if we are in Level 5 because we have to help in cutting the chain of the virus. School environment is still far better than a birthday party or social gatherings because schools are not super-spreaders and [are] regulated by the protocol and the provision of non-pharmaceutical intervention that saves lives.

News24 reported on Thursday that the Independent Schools Association of Southern Africa (Isasa) executive director Lebogang Montjane said several bodies representing the schools also met with the department, which indicated that the NCCC was recommending a postponement of the reopening.

The association said it was in a catch-22 situation due to the nature of independent schools and their calendars.

Montjane said if the postponement of the reopening also affected independent schools, the association will recommend that its members go fully online.

Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga will brief the nation at 09:00 on Friday on the state of readiness of schools. She is also expected to make an announcement on whether schools will reopen on the set date of 27 January.

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