WATCH | Cosas calls on education department to close schools, prioritise matrics

  • The Congress of South African Students held a protest in Khayelitsha on Monday.
  • The protesters were calling for schools in the province to be closed.
  • They said schools in the area were not adequately prepared to protect pupils and staff from the spread the coronavirus.

A group of about 30 members of the Congress of South African Students (Cosas) protested outside Iqhayiya High School in Khayelitsha, Cape Town, on Monday.

They were protesting to show their disapproval over the national Department of Education's decision to open schools amid an increase in coronavirus cases. 

The Western Cape Department of Education has since labelled Cosas' actions as "dangerous, misguided and completely illegal". 

"Schooling must continue, especially for those who are in Grade 12. The department operates under the broad umbrella of the basic education sector of South Africa," Bronagh Hammond, the director of communications for the department, told News24.

Several parents and residents also joined the picket. 

"Our question to the Department of Education is that: 'How come you open schools while we know that there is no safety in schools when it comes to the risk of our children'?" said Mabhelandile Twani, a Khayelitsha resident and parent of two.

Hammond said schools have the necessary equipment to ensure the required safety protocols were in place.

"The department has provided each school with the necessary safety and cleaning materials to ensure a safe work environment for teachers and learners. The masks, sanitisers, thermometers and cleaning products are no different to those delivered elsewhere," she added.

Cosas' treasury-general, Michael Mayalo, said the best solution would be for the department to only prioritise matric pupils during this academic year. 

He added matrics should be tested and then quarantined for 14 days, saying once given the all-clear, pupils whose tests came back negative should be sent to a special camp.

"In that campsite they won't learn with these masks that are uncomfortable, they won't have to use hand sanitisers because it'll be a closed environment where by they will be able to learn," Mayalo said.

Education MEC Debbie Schäfer said Cosas had no mandate or authority to close a school.

"This action serves only to only to try and cause chaos and disruption, which will affect the poorest of learners the most. If they want to be relevant, they should work with us to assist schools to get back to work, while ensuring the safety measures are in place."

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