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Monday, December 6, 2021

SA Human Rights Commission Mulls Court Action Against Western Cape Education Over Reopening Of Schools


THE SOUTH African Human Rights Commission is taking legal action against the Western Cape Department of Education over its decision to go against Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga’s directives to reopen all schools on June 8.

SAHRC’s Andre Gaum said that the reopening of schools in the Western Cape will exclude learners in disadvantaged communities.

 Gaum said some schools in these areas are still not ready or compliant to deal with the spread of the novel coronavirus.

“According to our monitoring and our assessment and also surveys that have been done, they are about 80 percent ready. So there are also a substantial number of schools in the Western Cape that are, indeed, not ready,” he said.  

The commission has written to the department asking it to urgently ensure that it upholds the Constitution by leaving no learner behind.

The commission has also asked Western Cape MEC for Education Debbie Schafer to stick to the rules or face court action following her decision to reopen schools on Monday.

“The basis of all of this is Section 9(1) of the constitution which highlights the right to basic education and not be unfairly discriminated against,” said Gaum.

The commission also called on Motshekga to amend the directions published in the government gazette on May 29.

“At present it says schools that comply with COVID-19 rules may open and those that aren’t may not open. It should be amended to make alternative plans for learners who come from schools that cannot open,” said Gaum.

The commission is currently monitoring other provinces, said Gaum, who added that they want to make sure deliveries are taking place.

“If deliveries are not happening, we will contact the different provinces so learners can access their right to education,” he said.  

Schafer has argued that gazetted regulations, coupled with the Western Cape’s state of readiness, meant that schools in the province would open on Monday June 1.

Schafer said she will not stop children from learning unless a court of law tells her to stop.

“I am really battling to understand what the issue is. The Human Rights Commission is supposed to protect the human rights of all citizens and one of those fundamental ones is the right to basic education, and we are providing the right to education,” said Schafer.

“We are working with the national minister to do that and we are complying with the gazette but suddenly they feel that if all schools across the entire country can’t open at the same time, then they mustn’t open at all.”

(Compiled by Inside Education staff

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