A sign at Nhlanhlayethu Secondary in Inanda, KwaZulu-Natal, pointing out to queue for screening. Photo: Jehran Daniel/African News Agency (ANA)
A sign at Nhlanhlayethu Secondary in Inanda, KwaZulu-Natal, pointing out to queue for screening. Photo: Jehran Daniel/African News Agency (ANA)

DA and teachers' union take KZN Department of Education to task over Covid-19 'failures'

By Jehran Daniel Time of article published Jul 7, 2020

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Durban - The Democratic Alliance revealed in a statement on Monday that the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Education has been operating out of its jurisdiction with regard to early childhood development centres (ECDs).

DA spokesperson on education in KZN Dr Imran Keeka made reference to the ruling passed by the Gauteng High Court which states that ECDs will reopen with immediate effect. 

“Of concern, though, is that while today’s judgment has clarified points of law, there is still no firm legal mandate for the Department of Education (DoE) to be completely in charge of ECD and it continues to overlap with the Department of Social Development (DSD),” said Keeka. 

“At provincial level where implementation takes place this overlap will continue to cause confusion for all stakeholders until there is a complete function shift to the DoE,” he added

Keeka further explained that the DA had decide to write to the KZN Education and Social Development MEC Kwazi Mshengu seeking clarification on the reopening of ECD facilities.

“There is significant confusion in the ECD sector with regards to their operations. While the national minister of basic education has given an executive undertaking that those that are ready may operate or those already operating may continue, further clarity is exigently required,” said Keeka in the letter to Mshengu. 

“The DBE (Department of Basic Education), in my view, still does not have a solid legal mandate to run ECD as a whole. In keeping with the Children’s Act, DSD remains the custodian of ECD until this function shift is firmly transferred.”

According to Keeka, they had also been made aware that DSD officials had threatened ECD facilities with legal action should they reopen on Monday. 

“Given this, ECD centres under the 'mandate' of Education may operate while I am aware that those under DSD have been threatened with legal action, arrest, closure and cancellation of their licences to operate if they open," said Keeka, adding that this was a matter of serious concern that would have "a tremendous impact on the entire sector”.

The DA also highlighted the department's failure to supply personal protective equipment (PPE) to schools in KZN following the resumption of Grade 6 and 11 classes. 

“The DA is aware of approximately 29 schools in the Phoenix area allegedly did not receive PPE for Grades 6 and 11 today,” said Keeka. 

“We are also aware of the delay in delivery and shortages within Pietermaritzburg’s Northdale circuit. The DA regards this as completely unacceptable and KZN Education MEC Kwazi Mshengu must explain why this is the case,” he said.

The South African Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu) also raised concerns about the failure to supply PPE for Grade 6 and 11 learners.

“Sadtu notes that many schools in Pinetown and Umlazi did not receive learners’ masks for Grade 6 and 11. This is glaring in these two districts though there are schools even in other districts which have not received their face masks,” said Sadtu's provincial spokesperson Nomarashiya Caluza in a statement on Monday. 

“In line with Government Gazette No. 43372 clause 4 (2&3) such schools are not ready. We advise such schools to not allow these two grades back until their masks are delivered,” she added.

Caluza said the DoE had been hands-on with the Covid-19 protocols during the first week of schools reopening but had later failed to perform their duties. 

“The public was made to believe that whenever a school has a confirmed positive case the Department of Health would visit the school for purposes of identifying close contacts, test and isolate until results are back. We witnessed this in the first few days of school reopening,” said Caluza. 

“However, this was short-lived as members continue to report that they are made to wait for days without any direction from both the departments of education and health. What is painful is that some officials of the Department of Education are ignoring and dismally failing in their duty to provide support and guidance to schools,” she added. 

Caluza claimed that principals and circuit managers within the KZN schools district have been hiding Covid-19 cases. 

 “This is tantamount to murder as they deliberately subject the lives of defenceless workers and learners to danger,” she said. 

African News Agency (ANA)

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