Teachers’ unions on Wednesday threatened to withdraw more than 300 00 teachers from schools if the Department of Basic Education fails to deliver safety measures at schools on time, including water, masks and sanitizers. Despite assurances by Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga that it’s all systems go on Tuesday evening, trade unions, which includes SADTU, NAPTOSA, NATU and SAOU, said in a joint statement on Wednesday that a baseline survey conducted by the unions has revealed that 90% of schools have not been cleaned or disinfected.
“We, however, wish to make it clear that if PPEs had not arrived at schools and the required cleaning had not taken place when teachers return on Monday, they are not to endanger their lives by entering such schools,” said the unions on Wednesday.
The baseline survey, which involved 9 365 respondents and 40% of schools, was completed online between 16th and 18th May.
“This survey was completed by Principals who are on the ground, and are the very army the country depends on to manage schools in conditions of safety when for example 79% of the respondents report that they have not received regulations on how to deal with health and safety issues, when 60% report that their circuit manager has not yet been in touch with the and when 92% of respondents report that offices have not yet been cleaned and sanitised, you know there is a problem.”
The teacher unions said the Minister cleverly deflected these real facts by stating that school readiness will progress smoothly.
“These glaring inaccuracies demonstrate the lack of human-centred leadership we require when dealing with difficult and complex decisions. The Education Unions have called for the non-negotiables to be met before the workers can report for duty and this is what must be the preoccupation of the department rather than coercing the stakeholders to agree to unrealistic dates,” the unions said.
The survey also reveals that more than 60% of schools in the Eastern Cape, and more than 40% of schools in the Free State, KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga, Limpopo and the North West have reported not having adequate water.
It also reveals that 44% of schools that responded to the survey reported that they do not have adequate access to water for COVID-related washing.
The survey further reveals that non-delivery of water tanks is a big problem in the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and Limpopo.
The unions said while South Africans were advised that soap and water are effective as a sustainable alternative, 94% of schools that responded to the survey report hand sanitizers have not been delivered to schools.
Sanitizers have been delivered to nearly 40% of schools in Western Cape, but little has been delivered on other provinces as at 18th May, the survey shows.
“84% of principals that responded to the survey report that they have not yet discussed safety procedures with the SGB. This is a crucial gap that requires attention at national and provincial levels as parental confidence is to re-opening of schools. 84% of principals that responded to the survey report that they have not yet discussed safety procedures with the SGB. This is a crucial gap that requires attention at national and provincial levels.”
Motshekga said on Tuesday evening that provincial reports showed that all schools were ready to return to class on June 1st.
SADTU threatened to withdraw its members from schools if the Department does not comply with its non-negotiables, which includes the provision of Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs).
“We note the Ministers announcement with reservations due to the fact that the department has for years failed to deliver basic infrastructure for schools timeously, so we are going to be vigilant in monitoring the delivery of these non-negotiables that are in line with COVID-19 regulations”, said SADTU spokesperson Nomusa Cembi.
However, teacher unions welcomed Motshekga’s announcement that she will appoint an Independent Panel to monitor compliance on safety measures before the commencement of learning and teaching.
“We welcome the minister’s announcement that she’ll appoint an independent panel to check the veracity of these claims,” said NAPTOSA’s president Basil Manuel.
“We want our own data to be checked as well as that of the provinces. We cannot allow false information to get our teachers to school with potentially disastrous results.”