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'It will take a miracle for schools to open on Monday': teacher unions

Rhodesfield Technical High School in Kempton Park undergoes fumigation in preparation of the opening of schools on Monday. Picture: Elmond Jiyane/GCIS

Rhodesfield Technical High School in Kempton Park undergoes fumigation in preparation of the opening of schools on Monday. Picture: Elmond Jiyane/GCIS

Published Jun 3, 2020


Durban - THREE teachers’ unions have poured cold water on the plan to reopen schools on Monday, saying doing so is simply impossible.

The National Teachers’ Union (Natu) said even if schools were ready, they would not encourage their members to report for duty, setting the stage for another stand-off with the department.

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Natu president Allen Thompson said the department was engaging with unions in bad faith, by announcing dates without consulting them.

He said 3 500 tanks should have been installed and water delivered, but none of the concerned schools had received a tank.

“There is also another approach they have adopted, of dumping chemicals at schools. Dumping chemicals does not make you ready to reopen because principals don’t know what those chemicals are for,” Thompson said.

He accused the department of forcing sickly teachers and those over 60 to return to schools, even though they are vulnerable to Covid-19.

SA Democratic Teachers’ Union (Sadtu) general secretary Mugwena Maluleke said “it will take a miracle” for the department to get the work done by Monday.

“If from April until the end of May we were not able to deliver 80% of the work, and some provinces are sitting at 55%, it will take a miracle to deliver the remaining 45% and get ready in seven days,” he said.

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National Professional Teachers’ Organisation of South Africa (Naptosa) president Basil Manuel said the department was struggling because preparations had started very late.

Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga announced that her department was working hard to ensure schools would be ready on Monday. Motshekga, her director-general Mathanzima Mweli, and service providers, said yesterday that the blame for the delay in providing personal protective equipment (PPE), for pupils and teachers, lay with service providers - who “misled” them about their capabilities.

“Initially, the whole government procured through only one supplier for the whole of government. And increasingly it could not successfully carry the burden of procuring most of these Covid-19 essentials from overseas, and the provinces were told - after about two weeks - to cancel and re-order, which caused delays of about three weeks to procure afresh,” Mweli said.

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Provinces deemed to still be lagging behind in preparations included KZN.

A forum, representing 36 school governing bodies (SGBs), in the south of Durban, warned that they would not open their gates on Monday if all the schools were not ready.

The forum said they would continue to monitor the schools’ readiness.

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Merebank SGB forum chairperson Ebrahim Houston said they supported the unions.

“We note the new date announced by the minister, but we still stand on our mandate that we will not open schools to pupils on Monday, if we are not satisfied with the safety of pupils and teachers. We are 100% behind the teachers for not returning to work as well.

“None of the teachers in this area have returned to work. They have a reason to feel unsafe,” said Houston.

Houston said it became clear, at a meeting yesterday, that not all schools were ready.

“Only 40% of schools are ready. We resolved that we cannot risk the lives of our children and teachers just to save the academic year. It remains to be seen if a one-week extension, for schools to prepare, will be enough. We will wait for all schools to be ready,” he said.

KZN Parents’ Association chairman Vee Gani said some schools were not ready because they had not received essentials and PPE.

He said efforts should be made to ensure schools are ready by Monday.

P.R. Pather Secondary SGB chairperson Yusuf Vawda said no teachers had reported for duty.

He hoped the school would be attended to, as soon as possible, so that it could open.

“The necessary health standards have not been met. We cannot buy our own PPE. We cannot ask parents to provide them because our children come from disadvantaged homes. The school has not been deep-cleaned. By opening the school in this condition, we would be placing the lives of pupils, teachers and the community at risk,” he said.

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