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Monday, December 6, 2021

SADTU Criticises DBE Over Reopening of Schools Amid Health And Safety Concerns of Teachers, Learners

SADTU says the Department of Basic Education has failed to address several problems and challenges affecting education in South Africa before the reopening of primary schools on Monday.

These included overcrowding, lack of protective personal equipment (PPE), shortage of masks, mobile classes and the lack of water supply and sanitation.  

The union’s secretary general Mugwena Maluleke said that the majority of schools were still without water supply on Monday in several rural provinces, another obstacle to readiness of schools.  

“The majority of schools were unable to comply with Covid-19 regulations, including social distancing. The reopening of schools did not go as planned. We made submissions to the DBE to first allow some provinces to deal with the 1 metre social distancing before reopening. They didn’t agree,” said Maluleke.

“We are very depressed by the situation. We saw shocking things in Gauteng and Mpumalanga where learners had to be sent back because the schools couldn’t comply with COVID regulations. There is also lack of masks at some schools and lack of water supply in the Northern Cape and Eastern Cape. We are extremely disappointed.”

The teachers’ union said that it was ‘extremely’ disappointed that the DBE went ahead to reopen while the majority of schools did not receive PPEs.

“In fact, the Department has not delivered even a single PPE to schools,” said Sadtu. 

The union also said the reopening for the third term took place with teachers, learners and parents having had a lot of uncertainties informed by the incidences of the past two weeks in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal, which could not leave out schools. 

About 137 schools were reported as having been vandalised, some had break-ins while others suffered arson damages in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal.

Close to 60 schools in Gauteng are not ready to welcome the full capacity return of primary school pupils today because they lack water supply, have insufficient space for social distancing and are plagued by electricity outages. 

The most hardest-hit areas include Orange Farm and Lawley in the south and Diepsloot, north of Johannesburg where erratic water supply is an ever-present challenge.

SADTU in KwaZulu-Natal said many schools were not ready for all learners because the Department of Basic Education did not provide more space to accommodate learners.

“This call is informed by the fact that learners are still required to practice social distancing of 1-1.5m at all times in and out of the classroom,” said SADTU KZN.

“The call from members in schools is that for this to happen the Department must provide mobile classes otherwise majority of schools will not be ready. Zululand, Umkhanyakude and King Cetshwayo districts have majority of schools without water supply – another obstacle to readiness of schools.”

SADTU KZN said it was also concerned that the replacement of the National School Nutrition Programme (NSNP) equipment stolen from schools during the recent break-ins has not been addresses.

This has resulted in learners in these affected schools not getting the meal they usually get from school.

“Failure to feed learners in schools compromises their concentration in class and may lead to poor performance by learners,” said SADTU KZN.

“It is therefore important for the Department to address these issues.”

Kwazulu-Natal Sadtu secretary, Nomarashiya Caluza, said that their situational analysis suggested there was no capacity at most schools in the province to ensure the safe return of all primary school pupils amid COVID-19.

“With the information we have, unless the department does some things differently and drastically, the majority of primary schools are not ready to welcome back all learners,” she said.

Meanwhile, DBE announced on Monday that Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga was expected to visit Monde primary school in Ekurhuleni on Tuesday to monitor the return of all primary school learners, from Grade R-7, at full capacity.

This will be done in terms of the risk adjusted differentiated strategy, said DBE.

“The return of primary school learners will enable both teachers and learners to recover learning and teaching time that was lost due to the recently extended school break,” the department said in a statement.

“The return of learners at primary school level comes on the back of a successful vaccination programme for the basic education sector with more than 517,000 personnel having received their vaccines.”

  • Inside Education

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