In anticipation of the start of the phased reopening of schools today, teams across the country have disinfected classrooms. At Ivory Park Secondary School in Johannesburg, teams disinfected everything, including the desks.     Themba Hadebe  AP  African News Agency (ANA)
In anticipation of the start of the phased reopening of schools today, teams across the country have disinfected classrooms. At Ivory Park Secondary School in Johannesburg, teams disinfected everything, including the desks. Themba Hadebe AP African News Agency (ANA)

Teacher unions slam DBE's June 8 date for reopening schools to pupils

By Sihle Mlambo Time of article published Jun 1, 2020

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Johannesburg - The five teacher unions - Sadtu, Natu, Naptosa, PEU and SAOU - have slammed the Department of Basic Education for announcing June 8 as the date for Grade 7 and 12 pupils to return to school.

This comes after Grade 7 and 12 pupils were expected to return to school on June 1, but this was delayed after the National Education Collaboration Trust, Rand Water and the Heads of Education Departments Committee, all found that the department was not yet ready to reopen schools for pupils.

The state of readiness for the department to reopen schools was at 80%, DBE said. 

The three reports said there were challenges pertaining to personal protective equipment at the provincial level and some schools were not ready to receive pupils or teachers. 

The teacher unions said they were demanding a meeting with DBE, which had since been set for June 11. 

We want to put it on record that the date of June 8 was never mentioned in the meeting because the focus was readying the system and ensuring that all the provinces comply with the twelve non-negotiables. 

“The astounding confusion caused by the statement must be condemned because the Department of Basic Education is obsessed with dates and ignoring the evidence of provincial readiness,” the five teacher unions said in a joint statement on Sunday night.

Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga is expected to brief the media before lunchtime on Monday, in a press briefing which has been postponed at least twice in the past 72 hours.  

In a statement on Sunday, DBE spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga, said schools would reopen on Monday for teachers and non-teaching staff.  

Provincial and district officials should ensure that health, safety, and social distancing requirements are strictly adhered to when teachers arrive. This whole coming week must be used for the proper orientation and training of teachers, the mopping and ramping of all supply chain matters, and final touches to the readiness of each facility for the arrival of learners.

“The date on which all learners have to report back to school, is June 8.  We have however received reports that indicate that some learners in boarding schools have already arrived. We urge the schools to continue with orientation of the learners in terms of the health and safety procedures that should be in place.

“The department held meetings with the association representing independent schools… and it was agreed on how they should proceed regarding the reopening of their schools,” said Mhlanga.

The teacher unions said they wished to return to school as soon as possible, but this would not be done if it was at the expense of the health and safety of pupils and teachers. 

“Our position as the teacher unions remains: As a collective we wish to highlight our rejection of a staggered opening of schools for our children. No school must be left behind, especially not because of incompetence and tardiness.

“Given the historical injustices of the past it is obvious which schools will be left behind should a staggered approach to schools reopening be followed. This we cannot allow no matter the justification,” the unions said. 

IOL 

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