Picture: Jacques Naude/African News Agency (ANA)
Picture: Jacques Naude/African News Agency (ANA)

Teachers' unions confident Cabinet will likely close schools for three weeks

By Baldwin Ndaba Time of article published Jul 23, 2020

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Johannesburg – Teachers’ unions are confident Cabinet will announce a three-week closure of schools on Thursday following their meeting with Basic Education Deputy Minister Reginah Mhaule about their demand that schools should be closed until the peak of the pandemic has passed.

Union leaders of Sadtu and Naptosa had separately told the media on Thursday their meeting with Mhaule had indicated Cabinet was closer to meeting their demands.

Naptosa executive director Basil Manuel was adamant the union leaders were adamant about the closure of schools. Sadtu’s general secretary Mugwena Maluleke shared the sentiment.

Manuel and Maluleke said the infections would continue to rise if teachers and learners remained in school.

According to union leaders, the National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC) will make their recommendation to the Cabinet later on Thursday. It will then be up to President Cyril Ramaphosa or Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga to make an announcement.

Earlier this week, Motshekga told the National Council of Provinces she had tabled a consolidated report to NCCC and Cabinet following her marathon consultation with various stakeholders in the education sector.

In her presentation, Motshekga admitted conflicting views were rampant among stakeholders in education, and that bodies such as school governing bodies and the South African Human Rights Commission were in favour of the reopening of schools, but teachers unions were adamant with their demand.

Motshekga added there were reports that the Standard Operating Procedures were not uniformly implemented, saying some schools were closed for three (3) days for deep cleaning, disinfection and fumigation, while others were closed for periods of up to, and sometimes more, than a week.

“This makes principals more vulnerable, as communities continue to point at these discrepancies. The replacement of teachers and support staff who have to self-isolate or quarantine for the prescribed period, and those with comorbidities, is also proving to be problematic,” Motshekga said.

She, however, said what was critical was that science must influence decision-making, and she would make a final decision based on the professional advice from science, health and education experts to develop plans and interventions against the coronavirus pandemic.

Education spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga said consultations were still continuing but could not confirm whether the announcement will be made today.

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