Parents face a tough choice next week: To send or not to send their kids to school
Unions were joined by school governing bodies in several districts in discouraging parents from sending children to school, saying all the required sanitation supplies had not been delivered and the schools were unsafe.
However, the department said it would abide by Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga’s directive, endorsed by President Cyril Ramaphosa, to reopen schools on Monday.
Teachers were first expected to return on May 25. However, this was pushed to yesterday as supplies were still being delivered.
Many parents said yesterday they were still weighing their options, while others had asked principals for advice.
The department, however, said it was confident that outstanding personal protective equipment and other essentials would be delivered and schools would be ready to open on Monday.
Spokesperson Kwazi Mthethwa said about 80% of preparations had been completed by yesterday afternoon, and acknowledged the process would not be perfect, given the number of schools in the province.
“When we say we are ready, given the fact that the reopening of schools is a big project, one cannot expect there will be no issues. If there are issues of the non-delivery of PPEs and essentials in certain schools, we cannot force teachers to go back.
“When it comes to children, it is up to parents. If they feel it would be unsafe, they have an option of not sending their children to school,” he said.
Some school governing body (SGB) forums have already communicated to the department that they would not be ready to accept pupils on Monday, and have publicly stated their position.
The SGBs of 33 schools in the Billy Nair Circuit, north of Durban, have said they do not recommend parents send their children as all supplies required for the reopening have not been delivered.
Billy Nair SGB Forum chairperson Ashwin Singh said they appreciate that education is of paramount importance, but returning to unsafe schools would place lives at risk.
He said classroom spaces were not conducive to physical distancing.
“We have made it clear that we will not willingly send children into a death trap, especially with no guarantees that schools are safe and will be decontaminated on a daily basis,” said Singh.
Earlier this week, the Wentworth SGB Forum said all nine schools in the area would not open on Monday.
The SGB forum south of Durban called on parents not to send their children to school.
Merebank SGB Forum chairperson Ebrahim Houston said schools in Yellowwood Park, Clairwood, Merewent, uMlazi, Lamontville and other neighbouring areas had decided not to reopen.
Houston said some schools were still trying to make their own arrangements to clean the premises yesterday.
“Some school management teams have taken it upon themselves to have some cleaning done. We believe that parents should make the wise decision of not sending their children to school.
“We also recommend that teachers stay in the safety of their homes until safety at schools can be guaranteed,” said Houston.
Parents told the Daily News that they trusted the SGBs’ judgement on the state of their schools and welcomed the decision not to reopen.
On Wednesday, five teachers’ unions said schools were not ready and teachers should not return. As a result, many did not report for duty as expected yesterday.
The department could not say how many teachers had not returned to work as it was yet to consolidate the numbers from reports.
The SA Democratic Teachers’ Union (Sadtu) said it stood by the collective decision of unions that teachers would not return until all schools were safe.
Provincial secretary Nomarashiya Caluza said Sadtu shared the view by all unions that schools were not ready to receive teachers and pupils.
National Professional Teachers’ Organisation of South Africa spokesperson Thirona Moodley said it became clear at a meeting with the department last night that not all schools would be ready on Monday. She said the main issues were the filling of water tanks and outstanding deliveries of PPEs.
“We will know for sure by Sunday after the department has briefed us on the progress. For now, it doesn’t look good for Monday,” she said.