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Sunday, December 5, 2021

Unions welcome the closure of schools

NYAKALLO TEFU|

Teacher unions across the country have welcomed the closure of schools from Wednesday 30 June 2021.

President Cyril Ramaphosa made the announcement on Sunday evening during his address on the government’s efforts to contain the coronavirus pandemic.

Educators Union of South Africa (EUSA) Spokesperson Kabelo Mahlobongwane said the union is happy and delighted by the president’s decision to close down schools in light of the increasing cases of Covid-19.

Just last week, Mahlobongwane called on teachers to withdraw their labour out of concern for their wellbeing and that of their learners.

Mahlobongwane accused Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga of consulting with certain favoured organisations and stakeholders regarding the decision to keep schools open.

At the time, Mahlobngwane said this move clearly shows that the lives of teachers and learners are not taken seriously by the minister, her department and the stakeholders she consulted.

READ: BREAKING: Schools to shut down from Wednesday

Speaking to Inside Education on Monday, Mahlobongwane said EUSA welcomed the decision, “especially considering that we were the only union that called for the closure of schools and the prioritisation of lives.

“Other unions, together with the minister [of basic education] were adamant that learners must continue going to schools, regardless of the deaths and number of cases,” said Mahlobongwane.

In his address, Ramaphosa said the country will be moving to alert level 4 as the number of Covid-19 cases rise in South Africa.

According to the National Institute for Communicable Diseases, South Africa reported 15 036 new cases and 122 deaths in the last 24 hours alone.

The institute said Gauteng remains the epicentre of the Covid-19 infections having recorded 9 858 new cases.

According to reports, the Covid-19 Delta variant is the most prevalent variant in the country.

Ramaphosa said the Delta variant has now been detected in five of our provinces, namely the Eastern Cape, Free State, Gauteng, KwaZulu Natal and Western Cape. Adding that this particular variant has been dubbed the superior variant as it spreads faster.

Initially schools were set to close on 9 July 2021.  However, Ramaphosa said the closure of schools and other educational institutions will be brought forward for the winter holidays.

READ: Union calls for educators not to go to work for two days

The South African Democratic Teacher’s Union (Sadtu) spokesperson, Mugwena Maluleke, said they are happy with the decision made by the president.

“We have always been very clear that we must be influenced by science and that is what the President said, the decision to close schools was based on science,” said Maluleke.

Maluleke said this will give schools a chance to have a formidable robust tracking and tracing system because it is important for the school community to trace those who may have been affected.

The National Professional Teachers Organization of South Africa’s (Naptosa) Basil Manuel said they were consulted about this decision ahead of time and are happy with the decision taken.

“It didn’t come as a surprise. We met during the week, and we met again on Sunday night at 18:00, we support the call to close but there are issues we are unhappy with,” said Manuel.

“Firstly, we need the schools to be cleaned properly while learners are away by people employed to do that, not just sanitising.

“Secondly the return date, we want learners to reopen on the 26th of July and not 21 July as per the school calendar because,” said Manuel.

He added that the set date of the returning of learners does not sit right with them.

Maluleke said the early reopening of schools will be informed by science, and that it will give learners time to catch up on the work they have not completed by the time schools close.

“We have always said that the pandemic is unpredictable and the numbers that are rising suggest that education from time to time is going to be disrupted,” said Maluleke.

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