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Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Schools In Limpopo Not Ready To Reopen Amid Water Shortages, Lack of PPE and Vandalized Classrooms


THERE will be no schooling in Limpopo after a frantic week of deliberations, consultations, denials and accusations between the authorities, teacher unions and learner representatives. On Sunday night the provincial Coronavirus Command Council announced that schools are not ready to reopen “after considerable assessment.”

The command council said consultations with all stakeholders will continue through the week. It also said delivery of all PPEs and training of officials will also continue “as they have been.”

“The PCC believes Limpopo schools will be ready by the 8 June 2020. Learners are therefore advised not to go to school until instructed otherwise. Educators and other administrators are however expected at schools and various administrative stations as usual,” the council which is led by Premier Chupu Mathabatha said in a statement late on Sunday.

The SA Democratic Teachers Union (SADTU) had already announced on Saturday that feedback from its members on the ground had indicated the schools were not ready for reopening on Monday.

The union said it had expressed its misgivings about the intention of the Limpopo department of education to recall teachers back to work early last week.

“The union then advised the educators not to return to work as the department had not yet put in place the health safety precautionary measures before workers could return to work,” Sadtu’s secretariat said.

The union said it also indicated that it would take the week that began on Monday 25th May 2020 to Thursday 28th May 2020 to assess the situation on the ground and would then indicate its position on whether the department was ready to re-open schools or not.

“Accordingly, the union tasked all of its structures to give daily reports on their observation about whether the department was complying with the delivery of all the required resources needed like PPE’s as well as attending to other strategic risks identified to be addressed first before the schools can re-open.

“The reports submitted, viewed singularly and accumulatively, have painted a very bleak picture about the state of the province’s readiness to reo-open the schools on 01st June 2020.”

The union said the reports indicated amongst others that not all PPEs have been delivered to schools and these include the cloth masks for both educators and learners.

It also said the department has not yet appointed screeners at the schools and trained them about executing their work and that in some cases the department has attempted to coerce principals of schools to do this task.

“The process of cleaning and disinfecting the schools was still underway due to financial constraints as a result of the norms and standards monies not yet paid. There are no proper guidelines on managing educators presenting with comorbidities as the policy to implement this was still being finalised at the national Education Labour Relations Council (ELRC).”

Sadtu said the water tanks to be delivered to schools, with no running water, had not yet arrived at those schools and that schools that had challenges of toilets have not yet been provided with mobile toilets as a mitigating factor.

The union said it had since advised teachers not to report to school on Monday [1 June 2020] “pending the finalisation of all of the above-mentioned issues”.

National department of basic education spokesman Elijah Mhlanga said the Council of Education Minister met yesterday on Saturday to assess the state of readiness for the reopening of schools.

He said the body 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.

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

Mhlanga said the Heads of Education Departments Committee (HEDCOM), also presented its technical report.

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

He said “the 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. Provincial and district officials should ensure that health, safety, and social distancing requirements, are strictly adhered to when teachers arrive.”

Mhlanga 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.

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

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