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Monday, December 6, 2021

Schools Reopening Chaos and Rancour As Motshekga Opts For Postponement


BASIC EDUCATION Minister Angie Motshekga’s controversial plan to reopen schools on Monday for Grade 7 and Grade 12 learners has tumbled into chaos and rancour after her department’s decision to postpone the reopening to June 8 amid growing concerns by teacher unions, parents and civil society organizations.

The postponement of the reopening of schools follows meetings with the Council of Education Minister (CEM) on Saturday to assess the state of readiness for the reopening of schools, where the Heads of Education Departments Committee (HEDCOM) also presented its technical report.

The CEM also received a report from the Consortium of service providers coordinated by the National Education Collaboration Trust on the External Evaluation and Monitoring of the state of readiness.

The Rand Water, as an Implementing Agent delivering water to 3,500 schools, also presented its report.

“All three reports converged on the fact that a substantial number of schools would not be ready for the reopening tomorrow (Monday, 1 June), albeit tremendous progress had been made by most provinces, which overall reflected 80% state of readiness,” the department said on Sunday.

“CEM was concerned that, in some provinces personal protective equipment for learners in particular, had not been received; and some schools had not been made ready for the arrival of teachers and learners.”

The date on which all learners have to report back to school, is the 08 June 2020, said the department.

“The CEM then took decisions, which have since been shared with teacher unions, school governing body associations, independent schools’ associations, the SA Human Rights Commission, Principals Association, South African National Association for Specialized Education, and other stakeholders,” it said in a statement. 

“Meetings have taken place, since yesterday and today, in which we shared the outcome of the reports and the proposed course of action. CEM took informed decisions to have schools to continue to reopen on 01 June 2020, but with School Management Teams, Teachers and Non-Teaching Staff only arriving to prepare for the arrival of learners.” 

The department said provincial and district officials should ensure that health, safety, and social distancing requirements, are strictly adhered to when teachers arrive. 

It also said this whole coming week must be used for the proper orientation and training of teachers, the mopping and ramping of all supply chain matters, and final touches to the readiness of each facility for the arrival of learners.

“We have however received reports that indicate that some learners in boarding schools have already arrived,” said the department.

“We urge the schools to continue with orientation of the learners in terms of the health and safety procedures that should be in place. The Department held meetings with the association representing independent schools yesterday and today and it was agreed on how they should proceed regarding the reopening of their schools.”

Motshekga’s phased reopening plan of schools lacks the support of teacher unions, parents, school governing bodies (SGBs) and civil society organizations to reopen classrooms due to her department’s failure to deliver non-negotiables on time.

According to teacher unions, these non-negotiables 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 and masks, screening of learners, teachers and support personnel, and social distancing in the transportation of learners to and from schools.

(Compiled by Inside Education staff)

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