Angie Motshekga meeting education MECs to discuss readiness to reopen schools on June 8
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Johannesburg - Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga is on Thursday meeting MECs following an intervention by the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) for schools to be ready to open on Monday.
The Chapter Nine institution intervened after being approached by teachers' unions. According to the unions, their call for provinces to provide enough protective equipment to all schools had fallen on deaf ears.
Basic Education spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga said Motshekga would meet education MECs to discuss issues raised by unions. “As for the SA Human Rights Commission, we met them this past week and agreed to continue formal engagements with them using appropriate channels,” said Mhlanga.
SAHRC commissioner Andre Gaum said they would make sure provinces worked around the clock to make sure all schools opened without problems.
The department had been forced to postpone reopening schools from June 1 to June 8 as many teachers and pupils had not received the necessary protective equipment.
“We are going to get to a point where schools will reopen, therefore our focus now is specifically on the delivery of what needs to be delivered to schools like protective items and water; we will apply pressure on provinces to deliver as far as that is concerned,” said Gaum.
They had asked Motshekga to amend the schools' Covid-19 regulations to allow provision for alternative measures for schools that would still not be ready on June 8, he said.
“She (Motshekga) has amended the regulations as per our requirement, and now it does make provision for alternative measures. So we will be in contact with the provinces to find out what the alternative measures are that are going to be taken as we are defending the rights of learners whose schools are not ready for education,” said Gaum.
The commission had also slammed Motshekga for allowing the Western Cape Education Department to proceed with teaching and learning this week before others.
The SAHRC said this week it would approach the high court if the Western Cape schools, which opened on Monday, continued operating instead of waiting for others. “The commission is ready to approach the High Court to interdict the Western Cape Education Department from continuing with teaching and learning this week.
“The commission will monitor schools throughout the country to ensure that effective learning takes place and that no learners are unduly disadvantaged by the inability of schools to open and provide learning,” read a statement from the commission.
Suid-Afrikaanse Onderwysersunie executive director Chris Klopper said the SAHRC’s intervention was because “provinces were not delivering”.
“So if the SAHRC can assist to ensure that all items are delivered by Monday, we will gladly welcome that. The provinces are not delivering and it has been two months now. How difficult is it to get those masks delivered to school?” he asked.
However, Klopper suggested that the department should get community members to provide home-made masks to local schools.
National Teachers Union president Alan Thompson said after being approached by the unions collectively, the SAHRC immediately warned Motshekga about possible court action if she insisted on opening certain schools before others. “We are also expecting the SAHRC to take the Western Cape government to court for proceeding with teaching and learning while other provinces are being deprived an opportunity to do that,” Thompson said.
The unions would meet Motshekga in Pretoria this afternoon to raise their concerns about June 8 as they felt that many schools would still be without protective equipment on the date.
Western Cape education spokesperson Kerry Mauchline confirmed that Education MEC Debbie Schäfer had been contacted by the SAHRC, but said the schooling in the province would continue. “The longer that schools remain closed, the wider the gap will become between those learners who cannot access education via digital alternatives at home (in our poorer communities in the main), and those who can and do. Preventing schools that are ready to open from doing so will only serve to further increase this gap,” she said.