Teachers' union in court bid to stop schools from opening tells its members to stay home

A worker disinfects a classroom in Glenstantia Primary School.
A worker disinfects a classroom in Glenstantia Primary School.
Lee Warren, Gallo Images
  • The Educators Union of South Africa is taking the Department of Basic Education to court over the reopening of schools.
  • The union says its members should not report for duty on 8 June.
  • It adds that the government should address its concerns on how pupils and teachers would be protected.

The Educators Union of South Africa has lodged an urgent court application to interdict the reopening of schools on 8 June.

The matter was postponed on Tuesday in the Gauteng High Court in Pretoria and will now be heard on 9 June, the president of the union, Scelo Bhengu, told News24.

READ | SAHRC threatens to sue Mothekga, Schäfer over schools reopening

"We told our more than 27 000 members across the country that they shouldn't go to school, it is not safe for them and for the kids to go to school at this time. They must remain in their homes," he said.

Pupils were set to return on Monday, with schools having been closed since mid-March due to the Covid-19 pandemic.On Sunday, the Department of Basic Education announced that schools would not reopen on Monday, 1 June - instead, pupils would only return from 8 June.

Bhengu said schools should not reopen, while some lack certain resources.

Tested

"We have been saying to the department that these schools have pits toilets and no running water. Now they are doing everything in a short space of time. Most townships and rural areas schools are not ready," he said.

Bhengu said the department should ensure that teachers and pupils are tested.

READ: Blanket reopening of schools was risky - Motshekga on why she backtracked

He also said the department should issue statistics on the schools that have adequate infrastructure.

"They must tell us how they are going to protect the learner from infection. Learners take public transport to schools. Some of them walk to schools in groups, how are they going to protect them?"

"The only thing the department has planned for is social distancing, sanitisers and masks.

"They must keep them at their homes because schools are not ready and department does not have a proper plan," Bhengu said.

READ | Large quantities of PPEs earmarked for KZN schools have 'disappeared'

Meanwhile, the South African Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu) said it supports the union's court application.

"The last-minute concession, postponing the opening of schools by a week, is not giving us sufficient assurance that the government will have addressed the concerns of teacher organisations, parents and governing schools," the trade union said in a statement.  

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