Educators Union of SA heads to court wants schools to remain closed
The union is filing an urgent order interdicting the Department of Basic Education from going ahead with its plans to open schools.
It launched its urgent court proceedings as Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga planned on reopening schools yesterday.
But the union said it would proceed to court as it still felt that the department was not ready yet to open schools during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Siphiwe Mpungose, general secretary of the union, said in court papers that when the minister last month announced that Grade 7s and 12s would return to school this week, she undertook to have several issues such as water provision and personal protective equipment ready at all the schools.
After realising that these were lacking at many schools, the minister was nevertheless adamant that schools be reopened.
Mpungose said the union realised it had to take action to safeguard its members as well as the pupils.
The union wrote letters to the minister and her department, in which they voiced their concerns that the schools were not yet ready to be reopened.
It, however, received no response from either the minister or the department and therefore the union is now turning to court.
Mpungose said the matter is extremely urgent as the envisaged date for the reopening of the schools was around the corner and to date neither the minister nor the department had negotiated with them regarding the measures in place to safeguard the teachers and pupils.
“This is a matter of life and death and it is playing out in the media, while the statistics of infected people are rising the decision to reopen the schools has been rushed to benefit suppliers of protective equipment, school nutrition programmes and scholar transport operations.”
Mpungose said that while statistics showed that the Covid-19 death rate was rising, it would be exacerbated at the expense of teachers, pupils and support staff if schools were reopened too soon and before all the safety measures had been put in place.
He said issues such as water shortages and pit toilets at some schools, as well as student transport, had not been addressed. He also pointed out that schools in the Western Cape had already recorded infections, even before their doors opened.