Learners and teachers from Ravensmead Secondary School gathered along Frans Conrade Drive to protest against the Western Cape Education Department's insistence that schools remain open. Picture: Allison Landsberg/African News Agency (ANA).
Learners and teachers from Ravensmead Secondary School gathered along Frans Conrade Drive to protest against the Western Cape Education Department's insistence that schools remain open. Picture: Allison Landsberg/African News Agency (ANA).

Teachers, pupils demand Cape schools remain closed amid Covid-19

By Sisonke Mlamla Time of article published Jun 30, 2020

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Cape Town - Teacher unions, civic organisations and pupils held protests at several Cape Town schools on Monday, demanding the institutions be closed to protect pupils and teachers from the Covid-19 pandemic.

Protesters displayed placards and sang outside schools in areas which included Athlone, Hanover Park, Newfields, Groenvlei, Lansdowne, Garlandale, Rondebosch, Claremont and Khayelitsha.

Shaheed Majiet, chairperson of the SA Democratic Teachers Union in Athlone East, said their objective was to mobilise and intensify the campaign on all fronts.

Educators Union of SA provincial chairperson André de Bruyn called on teachers and parents to support their two-day stay-away initiative to show their dissatisfaction in the Western Cape Education Department.

De Bruyn said the initiative aims to highlight the infection rate and lives being lost since schools reopened.

He said they also demand an immediate closure of schools to save the lives of teachers and pupils.

“We will not allow teachers and pupils to be irresponsibly exposed to the invisible enemy. Therefore, our union supports any actions that saves lives. Any initiative that will lead to the closure of schools during this time,” De Bruyn said.

Education MEC Debbie Schäfer said in the past week the department has seen the disruption of schooling by community and civic organisations.

Schäfer said it was clear there was mobilisation among various organisations around the fact that schools are reopening, and in anticipation of more pupils returning to school on Monday.

“It is particularly interesting that this appears to be happening in the Western Cape more than anywhere else, while Gauteng has a higher number of active cases.”

She said the organisations claimed to have the safety of teachers and pupils at heart. However, it was their own actions that were putting learners and teachers’ lives at risk, Schäfer added.

“Video evidence shows people entering schools, and organisations taking learners to the streets, not wearing their masks correctly, nor adhering to physical distancing,” she said.

“They are denying learners of one of the most fundamental rights in our Constitution - the right to education.

“While I completely understand the anxiety and concern of teachers and parents, I also have to ensure that our system functions. We are, like our colleagues in health, are providing a public service.”

Schäfer added: “This is supported by all provinces. The minister has been quite clear that the decision was not taken lightly, and was done based on medical evidence and advice, which all supported the phased return to school, subject to the correct health protocols being in place.”

@SISONKE_MD

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Cape Argus

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