If there is no PPE, we will not return to work - teacher unions tell Motshekga

File picture: Matthew Jordaan/African News Agency (ANA)

File picture: Matthew Jordaan/African News Agency (ANA)

Published May 20, 2020


Johannesburg - If the Department of Basic Education fails to supply teachers with the promised personal protective equipment by Monday, May 25, teachers will not return to work, so says South Africa's five recognised teacher unions.

The teacher trade unions - SA Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu), National Professional Teachers of SA (Naptosa), Professional Educators Union (PEU), the National Teachers Union (Natu) and the SA Teachers Union (SAOU) - released on a joint statement on Wednesday, saying that if PPE was inadequate and schools were not adequately cleansed by Monday, teachers would not return to work. 

The teacher unions said they were unhappy with the level of detail from Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga's announcement on Tuesday night, that schools would reopen from June, with Grades 7 and 12.

Teachers are expected back at work next Monday. The minister said operations were under way to ensure that classes were cleaned and PPEs were delivered to schools ahead of the arrival of teachers and learners.

She said schools that need water tanks would be provided with such in time. But unions have disputed the level of preparedness.

The teacher unions said their own survey, which was conducted across 9 365 schools, showed that most schools were not ready to open. The unions said PPEs had not been delivered and water had not been provided to schools in need.

A breakdown on the unions' readiness survey shows: 

- 79% of responding schools said they had not received health and safety regulations.

- 60% of principals said they had not been contacted by circuit managers.

- 44% of schools said they had no access to water, with the most affected provinces being KwaZulu-Natal, North West, Limpopo and Mpumalanga.

- 24% of schools that received water tanks do not know how they will be filled.

- 92% of schools said offices had yet to be cleaned, with the best progress being noted in the Northern Cape and Western Cape.

- 95% of schools said classrooms had not been cleaned.

- 78% of schools said there was no soap or water to disinfect areas.

- 94% of schools said sanitisers had not been delivered.

The teacher unions said Motshekga's announcement had been contradicted by the evidence on the ground. They said she failed to show leadership and provide guidance.

"The minister cleverly deflected these real facts by stating that school readiness will progress as we count down to the reopening of schools.

"These glaring inaccuracies demonstrate the lack of human-centred leadership we require when dealing with difficult and complex decisions. The education unions have called for the non-negotiables to be met before the workers can report for duty and this is what must be the preoccupation of the department rather than coercing the stakeholders to agree to unrealistic dates," the unions said. 

The teacher unions survey can be accessed below:

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