Amnesty International calls for 'progressive planning' on reopening schools
Cape Town – NGO Amnesty International South Africa says the Department of Basic Education (DBE) needs to be transparent, accountable and progressive in its planning as it considers the reopening of schools amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“We call on the DBE to be transparent, accountable and progressive in its planning, so that parents, teachers and all those involved know exactly what they can expect and what public health, water and sanitation measures will be put in place to keep them safe,” said Shenilla Mohamed, executive director of Amnesty International SA.
The DBE held a joint meeting with the portfolio committee on basic education and the select committee on education and technology, sports, arts and culture on Wednesday.
The DBE is drafting legal requirements on safety measures that schools will have to meet when they tentatively reopen next month amid the ongoing Covid-19 health crisis, director-general Hubert Mweli told members of Parliament.
Mohamed highlighted a report that the organisation released in February which noted that out of 23 471 public schools in South Africa, 4 358 still had illegal pit latrines for sanitation and 37 schools had no sanitation facilities at all.
According to the organisation, field research found some schools lack both decent sanitation and a reliable water supply, especially at a time when access to water and sanitation is of utmost importance to staying healthy.
The lack of this essential provision in schools is deeply worrying, says Mohamed.
Amnesty International SA is calling on the DBE to work urgently with the Department of Water and Sanitation to ensure that all schools in the country have access to sufficient, safe and reliable water and sanitation without delay.
“After years of repeated failings and missed targets, there is no better time to start fixing South Africa’s poor education infrastructure,” added Mohamed.
“The empty schools provide a perfect opportunity for workers to build and install proper infrastructure in schools without risking their health. Now is the time to fix this problem, once and for all.”
The organisation acknowledged that these are uncertain and difficult times for everyone, including for the DBE, but this pandemic is not only a health crisis but a human rights crisis, and it emphasised once more that the right to quality education must be defended now and into the future.
African News Agency (ANA)