Nyakallo Tefu and Charles Molele
The South African Democratic Teachers Union has accused the Department of Basic Education of engaging in bad faith, insisting that no schools will be re-opened until their demands are met.
This comes hours after the Department of Basic Education’s Director-General Hubert Mweli announced COVID-19 sector plans on the re-opening of schools next week, starting with Grade 12 and Grade 7 learners using a phasing approach.
The Department’s approach to re-open schools is largely informed by rigorous research on the ground, National Coronavirus Command Council COVID-19 protocols and solid comparative studies with other countries, which includes Taiwan, China, Singapore and Denmark.
SADTU said the Department’s approach was deeply flawed and not backed by scientific data, given the recent spurt in COVID-19 cases in South Africa.
The country has 4 996 confirmed Covid-19 cases and 93 deaths related to the coronavirus. This is an increase of 203 on Monday’s 4 793 confirmed cases.
“We reject importing the Taiwan, China, Denmark and Singapore misrepresentation by the Director General. The context and culture are not the same. We must use our context, culture and data to inform our actions,” it said.
The 220 000-strong teachers union said it stood firm that no schools shall open until its concerns are met.
“We urge the Department to comply with minimum requirements which we articulated in 14 points,” SADTU said in a statement on Wednesday.
“These included among others, the fumigation and disinfection of schools, proper school infrastructure in the form of proper toilet facilities, observance of social distancing inside the classrooms and on court yards, reduction of class sizes, provision of soap, sanitizers an masks, screening of learners, teachers and support personnel, social distancing in the transportation of learners to and from schools, provision of psychosocial services to assist learners as well as teachers to build resilience and calm down fears among learners and teachers.”
Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga has held several high-profile meetings with MECs of Education, heads of department, teacher unions and other interested pressure groups and NGOs in the last few days to discuss the re-opening of schools and the impact of COVID-19 on the 2020 Schools Calendar and Curriculum.
The teachers union said it is now clear that the Department was engaging in bad faith.
“This is undesirable when we are faced with a virulent and contagious pandemic”, said SADTU.
“If Stage 4 regulations are to be adhered to, there should be no re-opening of schools under Stage 4. The Minister should meet with stakeholders before any announcement is made and after making sure that the Department of Health has expertly assessed the risks.”