'We will not open our schools' - Wentworth SGBs tell Education Department
Durban - The school governing bodies of all the schools in Wentworth have written to the Department of Education saying they have no intention of opening their schools to teachers this week or pupils on June 1 while the Covid-19 pandemic continues in South Africa.
The letter, which they say was the result of an "unprecedented and historic meeting" was signed by the governing body chairpersons and deputy chairpersons of Assegai Primary, Austerville Primary, Collingwood Primary, Durban East Primary, Gardenia Primary, Fairvale Secondary, Umbilo Secondary and Wentworth Secondary.
"Wentworth Combined SGB Forum declares without fear or favour that although education of our learners is of paramount importance, so too is their well-being and the well-being of our educators and the greater community our schools' service," the letter reads.
"Assurances given by the Department of Education (DoE) have not been met and basic conditions laid down by a united union force has been met. All of these prerequisites are essential to ensure a smooth transition to normal as we know it. The department has failed us dismally in this regard and it is incumbent on us as a Wentworth Combined SGB Forum to enforce our mandate from our constituencies, that schools will not open until all conditions are met. We are not prepared as governing bodies to send any family members of any learner or educator a bouquet of flowers for the loss of a family member that we failed to protect."
On Sunday, KZN Premier Sihle Zikalala said teachers in the province would return to school on Thursday instead of Monday, as initially announced by Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga.
However, teacher unions said they would only return to school once the Department of Education had assured compliance with all Covid-19 regulations.
Zikalala's extension was to allow for the complete cleaning of schools and for all schools to receive personal protective equipment (PPE).
Zikalala said plans were made to ensure delivery of PPE and essentials to schools by Wednesday.
Education MEC Kwazi Mshengu also assured no school would run out of essentials and PPE, saying his department had procured enough stock for the next six months.
However, the SA Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu), the National Professional Teachers’ Organisation of SA (Naptosa) and the National Teachers Union (Natu) were adamant teachers should not return to school.
They were not confident about the schools’ state of readiness.
The Wentworth combined SGB agreed, saying their classrooms and spaces are not conducive to social distancing.
"Educators cannot be expected to monitor and implement sanitising issues and still be expected to teach... Parents have made it abundantly clear that they will not send their children into a death trap, especially with no guarantees or assurances. Let Parliament open and all its members return before sending schools back."
They said schools must be the last sector of society to return to normal.
"We are totally opposed to school resuming any time soon. Our message to our nine schools in Wentworth is that no school will open its gates. Yes, our children's education is important, but far more important is having a child alive because we protected them, than to have a dead child because we failed to act in their best interest even though the facts were before us."