Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga will almost certainly announce the closure of schools today following marathon meetings between herself, unions and the Cabinet. Picture: Courtney Africa/African News Agency(ANA)
Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga will almost certainly announce the closure of schools today following marathon meetings between herself, unions and the Cabinet. Picture: Courtney Africa/African News Agency(ANA)

Unions call for closure of schools as anticipation grows for Motshekga's address

By Sisonke Mlamla Time of article published Jul 20, 2020

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Cape Town - Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga will almost certainly announce the closure of schools today following marathon meetings between herself, unions and the Cabinet.

This follows outrage by South Africa’s five teachers’ unions calling for the immediate closure of all schools, saying that the lives of pupils and their members were at risk.

The unions - the South African Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu), National Professional Teachers’ Organisation of South Africa (Naptosa), South African Teachers Union (Saou), National Teachers Union (Natu) and Professional Educators Union (PEU) - submitted their demands at a meeting with basic education stakeholders including Motshekga on Friday, and resolved that schools be closed with immediate effect.

The unions said that “the system wasn’t and is not ready and is under severe pressure, with very low numbers of attendance since the return of the first cohort of pupils. The department has not been able to protect teachers, pupils and education support personnel by providing them with the necessary protective materials at all schools.”

Last week, Motshekga said meetings with stakeholders would be concluded on Friday, and she would only be able to give the public some certainty about the reopening or closure of schools after consulting with the Cabinet at the weekend.

On asking Motshekga’s spokesperson, Hope Mokgatlhe, when the minister was expected to give feedback on the meetings she had, she said: “Cabinet is still on till late.”

However, Mokgatlhe said the minister was likely to give feedback today.

Natu president Alan Thompson said schools should be closed with immediate effect and allow the peak and winter to pass.

“The system should use this time to attend to all outstanding issues, including the provision of water, building of toilets and additional classes and teachers. Schools should reopen at the end of August subject to review based on the development of the virus,” Thompson said.

Sadtu general secretary Mugwena Maluleke said the department should provide teachers with the necessary tools to work from home and prepare work for the reopening of schools and return of pupils.

Maluleke said it should also prioritise Grade 12 and look at different modes to assist them while they were at home.

“Grade 12 should return on August 17.”

Basil Manuel, Naptosa’s executive director, said the department and stakeholders should discuss the curriculum post this calendar year, focusing on reading for the remaining months of 2020.

He said the stakeholders and the Basic Education Department should engage the Department of Higher Education to consider late registration for first-years in 2020.

“All stakeholders should focus on advocacy campaigns, educating the nation about this invisible enemy, but also urge them to follow all precautionary measures, including staying at home,” he said.

PEU general secretary Ben Machipi said the threat on the salaries of teachers was lacking in logic because teachers worked throughout the year without asking for overtime payment.

Saou executive director Chris Klopper said that at the meeting they had also resolved that a task team should be established to work on all challenges confronting the education system, and expeditiously conclude the collective agreement on human resources to deal with absenteeism of teachers in self-isolation or quarantine.

National Association of School Governing Bodies chief executive Matekanye Matakanye said if all classes were suspended, at least Grade 7s and 12s could continue with classes.

“The problem with online learning is that it is going to have an impact on poor schools,” Matakanye said.

@SISONKE_MD

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Cape Argus

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