Teacher unions back recommendation to delay reopening of schools
Durban – Leading education sector unions have backed a proposal made to them by the National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC) to postpone the reopening of schools from January 27 to February 15 in the wake of spiralling Covid-19 infections and deaths.
The proposal was tabled to the unions and other education sector stakeholders in a virtual meeting held by the Department of Basic Education (DBE) on Wednesday as the NCCC grapples with several approaches to dealing with the pandemic, which has now claimed the lives of 35 140 South Africans since the outbreak of the virus on South African shores in March 2020.
Last night, the DBE’s senior officials, led by director-general Mathanzima Mweli, met virtually with several unions, including Sadtu, Natu and the National Alliance of Independent School Associations (Naisa).
Mugwena Maluleke, the Sadtu general secretary, said that following their meeting with the DBE, in which they also raised their concerns about science informing the delay and reopening of schools, they were now awaiting a final decision of the NCCC.
“Since two weeks ago, we’ve been preaching the fact that we need at least 14 days of observing the decline in cases, and clearly that is the science that the Command Council has also used, and we agree with them because that is the right thing to do,” said Maluleke.
Ebrahim Ansur, the Naisa secretary-general, said the DBE had made it clear to them that the proposal to delay the reopening of schools was in response to the information and research that had been undertaken by relevant committees and scientists, which indicated that the second wave was expected to peak in the coming weeks, particularly in Gauteng.
“In the face of the facts, we are now awaiting confirmation, which is expected in the next day or so because the cabinet is meeting today and tomorrow to make a final decision on this,” said Ansur.
Cynthia Barnes, the Natu general secretary, said although they were in agreement with delaying the reopening of schools until February 15, their biggest concern was that the DBE had proposed that only the teachers reopen on February 15, while learners would go back to school on January 25.
“If the teachers are going to go and sit in schools the whole two weeks, just imagine the teachers still at the marking centres. When they come back on January 22, they’ll be coming back with the infections and infect the other teachers,” said Barnes.