Reopening of schools: Motshekga fears spike in dropouts as truancy appears to be on the rise

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Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga says she has not lost touch with the reality poor communities face. Picture: (GCIS)
Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga says she has not lost touch with the reality poor communities face. Picture: (GCIS)
  • Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga called on MPs not to play politics with pupils' future and safety.
  • The IFP, EFF and NFP oppose the reopening of schools.
  • The ANC defended the government's decision to reopen schools.

Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga called on MPs to refrain from making utterances that would discourage pupils from attending recently reopened schools.

She told the National Assembly on Tuesday there already appeared to be an increase in truancy, while their "biggest fear" was a high dropout rate, which tended to affect impoverished communities.

Motshekga was participating in a "debate on an urgent matter of national importance" on the department's phased-in reopening of schools called for by IFP MP Siphosethu Ngcobo.

Introducing the debate, Ngcobo said he thought it was the wrong time for it as there was little Parliament could do, seeing schools had already reopened.

He added Motshekga had "departed" from democratic principles in not allowing proper consultation, saying the IFP's stance from the start was that schools should only be reopened after the rate of infection had gone down.

"Our learners are not safe."

Ngcobo said it was an "undisputed fact" the department had failed to provide the necessary infrastructure to ensure their safety.

He added, therefore, the decision was "completely irrational".

Other parties not supporting the reopening of schools were the EFF and NFP.

While the DA did not oppose it, the party was highly critical of the department.

"The closing of schools after the hard lockdown was not based on prioritising the future of our learners. It was purely political with no scientific evidence," said DA MP and spokesperson on basic education Nomsa Marchesi.

"It blatantly ignored advice from the World Health Organisation endorsing medical evidence that the transmission of the virus by children is low and that this fact should influence specific decisions in relation to schools reopening. 

"We all agree that life is vital, and we must do everything we can to protect all lives.

"Equally so, we cannot stand by and watch as the future of our children is trampled upon and discarded by unions, the indecisiveness of this government and lack of implementation."

The ACDP welcomed the phased-in reopening of schools, with MP Marie Sukers also expressing concern about the high dropout rate. She said a policy had to be developed to curb it.

ANC MPs defended the government's decision.

ANC MP Nombuyiselo Adoons said: "The NCCC [National Coronavirus Command Council] has guided South Africa through evidence and science, not through thumb sucking, like we've seen here [in the debate]."

She added the reopening of schools was guided by Department of Health guidelines.

Closing the debate, Motshekga said: 

It would be extremely immoral to play politics about the future and safety of our children. We should instead all wish our children all the best. Against all odds, it's with a degree of confidence, I say, that we are on course to rescue the ruin this pandemic has placed on our education system.

She added while there were infections among teachers, the rates were in line with that of their communities.

Motshekga shared DA MP Desirée van der Walt's concern about the vandalising of schools.

She said 2 278 schools were vandalised across the country during the lockdown.

Since schools have been reopened, 36 have been vandalised, of which 33 are in KwaZulu-Natal.

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