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

A worker sanitises a classroom.
A worker sanitises a classroom.
  • Sadtu has resolved that schools should close amid the Covid-19 peak in the country.
  • It says evidence on the ground shows that there's no effective teaching and learning at schools currently. 
  • The union has written a letter to Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga and wants to present a plan of what should happen while schools are closed.

South Africa's biggest teachers' union, the South African Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu) has resolved that schools should close amid a peak in Covid-19 cases in South Africa, it announced during a media briefing on Tuesday. 

Sadtu's national executive committee held a meeting on Tuesday to pen a way forward as infections spiked in the country, affecting pupils and teachers. 

Reading the statement, the union's secretary general Mugwena Maluleke said its NEC resolved that schools close until the end of the peak. 

Maluleke said evidence on the ground showed that there was no effective teaching and learning at schools during the current conditions. 

The decision of the national executive to call for the school to close for the period was, among others, informed by the peak, the winter season, which was also impacting the surge, the union said.

"Science evolution" also guided the union's decision, Maluleke added.

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He said while scientific data at first had indicated that children were not susceptible to contracting the virus, this had not been the case at schools. 

The union said it had written a letter to Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga and expected to engage with her and present a plan of what should happen while schools were closed. 

The union said it was calling on Motshekga, through the National Institute of Communicable Diseases to use the peak period to come up with strategies to curb the spread and save lives.

It said another development that compelled its leadership to request a meeting with Motshekga was the airborne nature of the virus, which requires new ways of dealing with closed environments, adding that it was not possible to open windows in classrooms during winter.

SADTU calls for the following to happen while schools are closed:
  1. Coordinated, interactive, and instruction radio lessons by teachers get underway.
  2. That well-coordinated television programmes get underway.
  3. The use of mobile phones to access content and the curriculum.
  4. Use of education applications where content will be verified and authenticated not harmful.
  5. Use of social media platforms for pupils to access the content.
  6. Provision of gadgets to pupils and zero ratings of teaching and learning sites.

Maluleke said the union had also noted inconsistencies in the application of Standard Operating Procedures and the Department of Health, which were discomforting on teachers and principals.

"It requires we use the peak and the influenza period as an opportunity to get scientists to work on responses while learners are at home.

"The suspension of classes during this period would afford the platforms entrusted with the regulations and protocols, to amend and train the users. The situation is dire and impacts on everyone in the community, and not only schools," Maluleke said.

He said the union was also concerned about the isolation and quarantine periods as well as "secrecy of those infected because the “principals were told not to tell anybody."

The union said teaching and learning could not continue under a situation where schools open and close from time to time because of infections.Absenteeism due to anxieties and fear were also some of the concerns, it added.

"Standard Operating Procedures for the closure of schools upon confirmation of a positive case is not being implemented consistently and uniformly across the provinces. As a result, schools are on autopilot and acting outside of this particular protocol, and that is a risk to the community, [and] not only to the school," Maluleke said.

Maluleke said the union was also of the view that pupils should continue receiving their school nutrition during the period and a plan be formed on how that would happen.  

SADTU said it would be engaging with other unions and also present its resolution.  

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