A file picture of staff cleaning at St Mary’s Diocesan School in May before learners returned to class. The debate surround the schools and academic year may head to court yet again. Picture: African News Agency (ANA
A file picture of staff cleaning at St Mary’s Diocesan School in May before learners returned to class. The debate surround the schools and academic year may head to court yet again. Picture: African News Agency (ANA

Court action threat over further delays in schooling

By Zelda Venter Time of article published Aug 5, 2020

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Pretoria - Government can face urgent court action if it further delays the school academic year this year, including extending it later into 2021.

This is according to trade union Solidarity, which this week sent a letter of demand to President Cyril Ramaphosa, Ministers Angie Motshekga and Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma as well as Education MECs not to delay schooling even further.

Solidarity warned that a further extension of the 2020 school year would be catastrophic. Learners are estimated to have lost between 30 and 69 school days depending on the particular grade.

However, they would be able to complete the school year on December 15 provided that there was no further disruption, the union’s lawyer, Werner Human, said.

Solidarity and the Solidarity Support Centre for Schools said they were ready to contest any further unnecessary delays to the adjusted school calendar and the possibility that certain trade unions may still demand that the school year be further extended into 2021.

According to the published education directives, schools that have been permitted to deviate from the original return dates for the various grades will be allowed to continue their process in deviation of the revised dates.

Although Solidarity welcomes this initiative, it is concerned that a further revision of the school calendar may result in an extension of the school year into 2021, which would apply to all schools.

According to the directives the period has already been extended from August 24 to August 31 - a week later than what was announced initially.

“Any further overflow to 2021 will be catastrophic. The extension of the 2020 school year is the result of pressure from certain trade unions in spite of proof that it is in the best interest of learners for schools to stay open,” Solidarity chief executive Dr Dirk Hermann said.

He added that their viewpoint was that the decision to open or close schools must be made by governing bodies and school managements and not by the state. “This principle, as supported by the South African Schools Act and the latest court rulings, should settle the matter,” Herman said.

According to the union, the recent announcement made by Ramaphosa that all public schools are to be closed amounts to a gross violation of the rule of law and is unconstitutional. “Moreover, no further directions have been issued by the Minister of Basic Education, who is the competent and empowered functionary to issue directions in respect of the reopening or closure of schools,” Hermann said.

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Pretoria News

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