Cyril Ramaphosa's speech on school return dates 'does not constitute law' yet - Fedsas

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President Cyril Ramaphosa addressing the nation on 23 July 2020.
President Cyril Ramaphosa addressing the nation on 23 July 2020.
  • Some schools have decided to reopen ahead of President Cyril Ramaphosa's announced 24 August return date.
  • Fedsas CEO Paul Colditz said the president's speech was not law.
  • He further stated that many schools had gone ahead of the curriculum through online and distance learning.

The decision of some schools to open ahead of President Cyril Ramaphosa's 24 August return date is well within the law, Federation of Governing Bodies of South African Schools (Fedsas) CEO Paul Colditz said on Sunday.

"The president's speech is just a speech. It does not constitute law," he told News24.

He said the direction some schools took to open ahead of the 24 August return date was based on government gazettes.

"The gazette is issued by the minister and determines the school calendar."

Fedsas CEO Paul Colditz
Fedsas CEO Paul Colditz

Colditz said provision was also made during the gazetting of the phasing-in of schooling.

"The directions in terms of when there was a phased-in approach made provision for a deviation. Schools could deviate from those dates if they were well prepared to ensure the safety and health of learners and teachers."

READ | School closures: Unions 'cautiously' welcome decision but private school concerns remain

He said many schools had already used this option.

"That option still stands until the minister's directions have been published in the government gazette to accommodate the announcement by the president."

He said Fairland Primary School in Johannesburg had been using this provision for some time before Ramaphosa's speech.

"They decided to give everyone a short break because their teachers had been teaching flat out since the beginning of April. They have been doing distance and online learning. They are ahead of the curriculum."

ALSO READ | Motshekga welcomes 'school break', calls on communities not to vandalise schools

Both Fairland and Manor Gardens Primary in Durban were set to open on 11 August for Grade 7s, the Sunday Times reported.

They said the schools would follow new term dates gazetted in June by Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga.

Education department spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga told the publication an amended school calendar would be published soon.

He said directives on the phasing-in of grades other than Grades 7 and 12 would be issued this week.

On Wednesday, Ramaphosa announced that all public schools would "take a break" for the next four weeks, from 27 July to 24 August. Grade 12 pupils and teachers would only take a week-long break and return on 3 August, and Grade 7 pupils would take a two-week break and return on 10 August.

Ramaphosa said the academic year would be extended beyond 2020 and the details would be communicated in due course.

News24 reported earlier that Mhlanga said the sector successfully managed to reopen schools in a phased approach in June, after they were closed in March when the country went into a hard lockdown.

'Separate but equal doctrine'

South African Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu) general secretary Mugwena Maluleke told News24 the "separate but equal doctrine applied by the government is unacceptable because it perpetuates the already exacerbated inequalities".

Maluleke said: 

The government is defeating the social cohesion programme by allowing the rich to undermine the safety and health of the teachers and workers working in those schools and consequently the public.

He said the break is aimed at helping the health system to cope.

"This will allow the Department of Education to fix health-related matters that can prevent the schools from becoming spreaders."

Maluleke blamed government for "allowing apartheid structures and designed value to thrive".

"It's about JSE-listed interest that make these schools to disregard the lives of the teachers and education and the learners. We don't accept this decision as the union."

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