Teacher unions on collision course with Education Department over school re-opening
This was after Premier Sihle Zikalala on Sunday said teachers in the province would return to school on Thursday instead of today, as initially announced by Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga.
The extension was to allow for the complete cleaning of schools and for all schools to receive personal protective equipment (PPE). PPE was stolen from a school in the iLembe district at the weekend. Zikalala said plans were made to ensure delivery of PPE and essentials to schools by Wednesday.
Education MEC Kwazi Mshengu also assured that no school would run out of essentials and PPE, saying his department had precured enough stock for the next six months.
BidVest committed to clean more than 400 schools for free.
However, the South Africa Democratic Teachers’ Union (Sadtu), the National Professional Teachers’ Organisation of SA (Naptosa) and the National Teachers’ Union (Natu) were adamant that teachers should not return to school. They were not confident about the schools’ state of readiness.
Sadtu provincial secretary Nomarashiya Caluza said they noted the shift to Thursday, but warned that if schools had not been cleaned and sanitised, and if all Covid-19 regulations had not been adhered to, teachers would not return to school.
They found that some schools received 4-5 litres of sanitisers and one to two plastic re-filler pumps for sanitisers. Caluza said some districts were fortunate to get eight to 12 disinfecting pumps and some schools were told that three schools would share a pump.
“We don’t know what to believe. We will be monitoring the situation and give a report-back by Wednesday on whether or not it would be safe for teachers to return to school.
“The problem in KZN is that unlike other provinces, service providers were dropping off PPE and essentials at district offices and not directly to schools. We don’t know what informed this decision. Some school principals were having logistic issues picking up stuff from the district offices,” said Caluza.
Naptosa spokesperson Therona Moodley said the failure to deliver PPE and the cleaning of schools had been a disaster as a result of poor planning and lack of co-ordination.
“We are relieved that sanity has prevailed and that the leadership of the province has seen the light. It’s easy to postpone the return date for teachers, but little thought has been given to outstanding issues. What about the curriculum? Has this been finalised and ready for teachers before pupils return?” Moodley asked.
Natu president Allen Thompson said principals were frustrated, and that some schools were not supplied with enough cleaning material and when they returned to ask for more, they were told that what they received was all they were allocated.
“We’re shocked to hear that the department has procured enough to last for the next six months. High-level decisions are announced in the media, different from what’s happening on the ground,”said Thompson.
The MEC said that while teachers unions had a right to raise their concerns, he called for everyone to work together. “The situation calls for solutions and not problems,” Mshengu said.
He also provided his private bakkie to assist some schools with the collection of their PPE and essentials.
On the issue of 463 schools that were vandalised during the lockdown and four that were torched, he said mobile classrooms would be sent and the damage would be fixed.
He said PPE was stolen from a school in iLembe district.
“The issue of safety remains a challenge for schools. Until communities say enough is enough, until communities stop creating a market for stolen goods, our schools will continue to have burglaries. We thank the communities whose help led to the arrest of 28 suspects in connection with these incidents,” Mshengu said.