Calls grow for school academic year to be suspended
This comes as a group of Western Cape high and primary school principals wrote an open letter to the department and President Cyril Ramaphosa, to object to the phased reopening of schools amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
The group has requested that the national government rethink the reopening of schools and has called for the academic year to be suspended countrywide.
The principals have also called on heads of other schools to speak out on the reopening.
The National Professional Teachers’ Organisation of South Africa (Naptosa) and SA Democratic Teachers’ Union (Sadtu) said the principals - as managers of schools and the people in touch with what is happening on the ground - should be given an ear.
Sadtu provincial secretary Nomarashiya Caluza said the department would get to hear and understand what was happening on the ground if it heard from principals, who are credible sources.
Caluza hoped the minister would carefully consider what the principals were saying.
Naptosa KZN spokesperson Thirona Moodley said schools in the province should not have reopened in the first place.
“The department needs to reconsider its decision. There are 300 schools in the province without water, which is essential in the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic,” she said.
Moodley said with the escalating number of Covid-19 infections and related deaths, Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga was encouraged to engage with principals and hopefully she would reconsider her decision to reopen schools.
She said the guidelines of the Education Department, regarding sanitising and screenings, were different from those of the Health Department and World Health Organisation.
“Every day we learn something new about Covid-19, yet schools have to rely on set guidelines - a document which is a theoretical manual, made before schools reopened. These guidelines have proven to be of little assistance and they need to be improved to be more reality driven,” said Moodley.
Ebrahim Houston, chairperson of the Merewent Extension School Governing Body Forum, which represents about 40 schools, hoped the call by principals would get attention.
Houston said the call from SGB representatives was to protect children and teachers from the virus.
“We are saying schools are not safe and we are saying this because we know the state of our schools. It is not just us talking, but it is the parents who know what they are talking about.
“Principals know what they are talking about, too. The minister must listen. Schools must close probably for the rest of this year or at least until after the flu season is over,” he said.
Premier Sihle Zikalala announced recently that 70 teachers and pupils had tested positive for the virus since schools reopened.
DBE spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga said the department was preparing for the return of other grades to school.
“The two weeks of learning and teaching has been valuable in giving us some important lessons on key areas we need to pay attention to, as we continue to implement the phased approach to the reopening of schools in the Covid-19 environment.
“It is inconceivable that some organisations are still opposed to the reopening of schools, even after the president announced that many other sectors are going to reopen.
“In essence, these organisations are suggesting that parents should go to work but leave their children behind. Our monitoring in provinces has indicated that many schools are compliant with Covid-19 regulations and this is really encouraging,” Mhlanga said.