Western Cape Education MEC Debbie Schäfer File picture: African News Agency (ANA)
Western Cape Education MEC Debbie Schäfer File picture: African News Agency (ANA)

Human Rights Commission threatens Schäfer with court action over reopening of schools

By Yolisa Tswanya Time of article published Jun 3, 2020

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Cape Town – The SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) said it was concerned about the Western Cape reopening schools as it “did not amount to equality”.

SAHRC commissioner Andre Gaum said the commission wrote to Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga, as well as to Western Cape Education MEC Debbie Schäfer, asking her to stick to the rules or face court action.

Gaum said they were of the view that the Western Cape should have remained closed after Motshekga announced that learners should return next week, as opposed to the gazetted date of June 1.

“There was a national announcement that they must open on June 8. Opening in one province does not amount to equality. We require her to stick to national direction and that there will be no teaching and learning this week. 

"It is important that we do not have a divisive approach, we are one country and we need to make sure schools are ready and no learners are disadvantaged.”

He said the province complied when schools were told to close, but were not doing so now.

“It is about weighing up rights, the right to health is also applicable here and it’s also about equal enjoyment of rights.”

Schäfer’s spokesperson, Kerry Mauchline, said Schäfer received the letter from the SAHRC, and responded saying schooling will continue in the province.

She said that while they did have some challenges on the first day, over 98% of schools were open for learners to arrive.

“We did have some challenges yesterday, such as a couple of cases where learners were prevented from attending school by members of the community.

“This is being addressed by the department, as learners cannot be denied their right to a basic education. We would like to thank all our principals and teachers that have prepared for the return of learners to schools, and which have safely received learners yesterday. 

"We have received countless reports of orientation taking place, following screening measures on arrival at schools,” she said.

Meanwhile, former DA leader and now founder of the One South Africa movement, Mmusi Maimane, has filed papers at the Constitutional Court seeking a postponement of the opening of schools. The case is set to be heard on Friday.

“The One South Africa movement will be proceeding with our Constitutional Court case seeking the

decision for schools to reopen to be suspended for 60 days, during which the government must provide, under the supervision of the Constitutional Court, proof of the existence of a comprehensive readiness and implementation plan.

“The plan must precede the simultaneous reopening of any grade or category of learners,” the movement said.

Motshekga’s spokesperson, Elijah Mhlanga, did not respond to questions by deadline.

Cape Times

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