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Teacher Unions Upset Over Motshekga’s Decision To Return 2.5 million Pupils Back To School

NYAKALLO TEFU

TEACHER unions, political parties and parents associations are at loggerheads with the Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga for sending more grades to school.

The various organizations said on Monday that they were concerned with the return of these grades as some of the schools were still struggling with Grades 7 and 12.

This was in response to Sunday’s announcement by Motshekga and her department that more than 2.5 million learners from Grade R, Grade 6 and Garde 11 would return to schools on Monday.

In a statement issued, the SA Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu) said this was a regrettable decision.

“We are extremely disappointed, because we would have loved to see the schools building resilience in teachers, learners and education support personnel before receiving more grades,” said Sadtu.

“That it is taxing the teachers to deal with the curriculum recovery whilst at the same time having to deal with the probability of becoming infected.”

Yet on Monday, the ANC Women’s League also slammed Motshekga’s decision to return more grades to school.

The women’s league said it was concerned over the phasing in of more grades and allowing schooling when the country was still struggling to contain the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We cannot turn a blind eye to the number of infections and deaths in our country. We are all aware of the infrastructure challenges in many schools across the country and conditions in such schools have been hazardous and posing health risks to learners long before corona emerged in our country. Therefore, as a country we cannot gamble with the lives of children, more especially the poor learners who are subjected to study in potentially unhygienic conditions,” the league said in a statement.

Meanwhile, the Progressive Organisations (teacher unions, worker unions and civil organizations ) in the Western Cape met at the weekend to assess the health and safety situation of learners, parents, teachers and support staff in the province.

The progressive organizations agreed that the Western Cape Province has become the epicentre of the deadly coronavirus in South Africa and things have now reached a crisis point.

“What we have also experienced is that this province is not ready to deal with this pandemic and our poor state of the public health care system in the Western Cape and in particular in the working class areas is a living example,” said the organization, whose membership includes COSATU, ANC Youth League, SADTU, COSAS, SA Communist Party and the Parents Against Opening of Schools.

“To date the Western Cape has recorded 66 195 cases, representing more than 50 percent of the total infections in South Africa. Most tragically, is the rate at which the virus is spreading in the working-class areas such as Ravensmead, Du Noon, Khayelitsha, Bishop Lavis, Nyanga and Mitchells Plain. South Africa is the most unequal society in the world.”

The formation said Grade 7 and Grade 12 learners can continue to go to be at school while Grade R to Grade to 11 students should remain at home until the virus curve flattens.

“This is the view of COSATU WC, SADTU (WC), NUPSAW ES WC, ANC YL, SACP WC, ANC WL, SANCO, SASCO and YCL. Parents against the opening of schools for learners, BLAC, SOS, Athlone Teachers’ Group and COSAS WC demand that all students stay away from school including Grade 7 and Grade 12 students until the virus curve flattens,” the formation said.

“We do not support the phasing in of other Grades into the system until the virus curve flattens. The Formation will monitor the ill-conceived plan to bring back grade 6, 11 and Grade R on Monday 6 July 2020 and will report non-compliance to the Department and Employment and Labour and the Human Rights Commission. The decision of the National Department of Basic Education ( NDBE ) to allow the phasing in of the other grades now will further compromise social distancing, constant sanitizing, and staffing challenges as there would be a need to reduce the class size and accommodation would not allow for this.”

Meanwhile, all private nursery schools, offering early childhood development may open their doors immediately if they have adequate safety measures in place.

This follows a judgment by Gauteng High Court Judge Hans Fabricius who overturned government’s regulations that these institutions remained closed under lockdown Level 3.

Trade union Solidarity, Bronkieland Nursery School in Bronkhorstspruit and an organisation called the Schools Support Centre turned to court on an urgent basis as there was uncertainty about when private pre-school centres could open.

(Compiled by Inside Education staff)

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