Cabinet to take decision on schools closing this weekend
Johannesburg - Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga will meet teacher unions this week, ahead of making representations to Cabinet at the weekend.
Union leaders had a meeting with the minister cancelled at the final hour on Wednesday morning.
Teacher unions have called on the Department of Basic Education to close schools with immediate effect ahead of the Covid-19 peak.
This as Covid-19 cases are now soaring, with at least about 15 000 new cases being confirmed daily. The recent surge in cases has seen South Africa’s Covid-19 death toll rise to over 4300, with the country now having the most cases in Africa and the 9th most confirmed cases in the world.
In a statement, the department said Motshekga would be engaged in consultations within the education sector - including teacher unions, school governing body associations and civil society, until Friday.
She had already had a conversation with teacher union Sadtu on Monday night, she said.
“The purpose of these meetings will be to obtain input on the issues regarding the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic as it relates to schools. These sector consultations will be concluded on Friday.
“The engagements will inform the ministers proposals to the Cabinet at the weekend. Once all the engagements have been concluded an announcement will be made to create certainty for the sector,” said DBE spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga.
The department said schools would remain open pending a decision on their closure.
Mhlanga also said the decision to reopen schools had been taken by Cabinet after extensive consultation within the education sector.
Meanwhile, Basil Manuel, the executive director of the National Professional Teachers Organisation of SA (Naptosa), said earlier on Wednesday that it was critical that the minister met with the teacher unions to discuss the issue of schools closing again.
“We hope common sense will prevail because we have so much to discuss, like the rationale behind our calls as teacher unions to close schools for the peak, we also want to discuss how to save the matric year,” he said.
Manuel said it was important that the minister met the unions as teachers were anxious at schools and they had not asked them to stay away from school despite issuing public statements urging Motshekga to close schools ahead of the Covid-19 peak.
“We have our views and we want to share them because we are not just saying schools must be shut down without a plan. There are many things that we need to discuss, like how long do we close, when do we return, because these are all the things we don't know right.
“We are also saying the storm is upon us. Why are we doubting that? And we also need to talk about the mental health of our teachers, our teachers are frightened,” said Manuel.
Sadtu secretary-general Mugwena Maluleke said they were calling for the use of radio, television and social media channels for schooling purposes during the period schools will be closed.