Picture: Reuters
Picture: Reuters

Unions mull over decision to challenge school reopening dates

By Sne Masuku Time of article published Jan 7, 2021

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DURBAN - THE majority of teacher unions in KwaZulu-Natal are not convinced that challenging the reopening of schools scheduled to take place in three weeks time now would be a wise thing to do without a clear indication of how long the Covid-19 second wave would last.

Schools in the province are scheduled to reopen on January 27.

Independent schools have already delayed the reopening of schools from January 12 to January 18 in anticipation of President Cyril Ramaphosa's address on January 15 in order to establish whether the country would remain alert at level 3 of the lockdown or move to another level.

The decision was also to allow independent schools to prepare for reopening in the second wave.

The SA Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu) and the National Professional Teachers Organisation of South Africa said it would be premature to challenge the reopening of schools now.

Sadtu provincial secretary Nomarashiya Caluza said the second wave of the Covid-19 infection kicked in when schools were closed and hence no plans to prepare for the second wave of infections had been made.

“We believe that moving from the understanding created in April when engagements for school reopening started, the Department will again have to work with education stakeholders in finding solutions for a way forward.”

“The fact that we cannot predict how the situation will be on the 27th when schools reopen is the main reason why we say there is no way we can say that we will or will not object to the reopening of schools at this stage,'' said Caluza.

She said, at this stage, the union still needed clarity on what the adjusted level 3 of the lockdown means for schools

“Remember there were concessions for teachers with comorbidities which lapsed when the country moved to level 1. We want to know what becomes of that status of the collective agreement on comorbidities in the adjusted level 3. The understanding that we all have is that schools must comply in all respects. There needs to be clarity should we remain on level 3,” said Caluza.

Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga, in December during her address, admitted that no plan had been made prior to preparing schools for the second wave of infections.

She said, instead, the department would use the school holidays to prepare schools for reopening in the second wave.

Naptosa provincial spokesperson Thirona Moodley said the union had decided that it will not cause any confusion now and closer to the date of reopening of schools, and observe what the virus is doing before it could begin discussions on the matter.

The Educators Union of South Africa (EUSA), however, has a different view that does not support reopening of schools this month as scheduled.

The union is of the view that schools should not reopen until it is safe to do so.

EUSA general secretary Simphiwe Mpungose said they oppose the reopening of schools in the face of the deadly Covid-19 variant.

"Any reopening of schools now will heighten the death rate and would be tantamount to genocide. We're aware of the fact that authorities and health experts are still struggling to diagnose the new Covid-19 variant features. so it is gross negligence to contemplate to reopen schools.

For these reasons, EUSA is going to boycott the senseless reopening of schools and call upon our members and supporters to think of their lives first above the curriculum," said Mpungose.

Department of Education spokesperson Muzi Mahlambi said the department was equally worried about the second wave, but found comfort in that the department has a system that has been tested for more than six months.

"We have a system that was implemented six months ago when we reopened schools last May. The system took all of the health protocols into consideration," said Mahlambi.

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