Basic education minister, Angie Motshekga. File photo: Jonisayi Maromo/ANA
Basic education minister, Angie Motshekga. File photo: Jonisayi Maromo/ANA

Motshekga sticks to guns on reopening of schools

By Mayibongwe Maqhina Time of article published May 28, 2020

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Johannesburg - Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga has stuck to her guns on plans by her department to  re-open schools on June 1.

During a virtual oral question session of the National Assembly on Wednesday, Motshekga said they were very confident that they have taken the correct decision.

"We made the case and explained why we have taken the decision to send children to school," she said.

Responding to a question if they have taken into account scientific and health experts advice on social distancing among pupils, Motshekga said: "We do not have adequate capacity to accommodate all learners at the same time."

She, however, said they would make sure that pupils wear masks and that surfaces were cleaned at schools, among others.

"We are confident that in terms of guidance from the department of health to say there is no reason to keep children at home."

Motshekga told MPs that parents were under no obligation to send their children to school if they were anxious about their safety.

She insisted that anxieties of affected parents should not determine for children whose parents want them to go to school.

"We are saying don't stand in the way of children and parents who want to come to school," Motshekga said.

"We know schools are good for children. They play in the streets now. It can't be safe when they play in the streets," the minister said.

Motshekga stated that personal protective equipment would be provided to all pupils and teachers. 

"The provision will be made on arrival at school. Everybody will receive protective clothing on arrival," she said.

The minister also said the provinces were responsible for procurement of PPE and that the department only developed specifications and prices for the equipment.

Motsheka also said the PPE was not delivered to schools to avoid break ins and that pupils would receive two sets of PPE.

"The protocols are saying no child will be allowed in the premises if they don't have a mask. They can't declare they lost or forgot them," she said.

Motshekga said there were strict protocols from the Health Department that schools should not be centres of the spread of the infections. 

"If a school does not have thermometers, it will not operate.  If a school has not demarcated to social distancing, it will not operate. 

"If a school has not received masks, it will not operate," she said.

Motshekga said there were clear protocols to be followed. 

"No school is going to operate if it does not meet the set criteria set by health," Motshekga added.

This also applied when it came to schools with water and sanitation challenges.

There were 3 545 schools with critical water challenges and there was delivery underway through the Department of Water and Sanitation and Rand Water.

Also responding to oral questions, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said all provinces have prepared additional beds  and that there were 5 000 ICU beds.

Mkhize said they have started looking at providing additional beds in Gauteng and the Western Cape.

"We have an arrangement to use private hospital beds. There are issues we are clearing up in terms of the costs of the beds," he said.

Mkhize said enough PPE have been ordered.

"There is enough stock brought into the country. The country is well secured with available PPE."

The minister stated that they were taking into account the important aspects arising from models on the possible trajectories the pandemic would take.

He however noted that some of the models did not have data on what happened in South Africa.

"We need to understand the limitations that are in the models … We do whatever  we can to.change the trajectory," Mkhize said. 

He also said testing has been a major weapon in the fight against the pandemic and that there was a global challenge with shortage of kits.

Political Bureau

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