Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga.     African News Agency (ANA)
Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga. African News Agency (ANA)

Back to school U-turn

By Sihle Mavuso Time of article published Jun 1, 2020

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AFTER days of insisting that most schools were ready to reopen today, the Department of Basic Education yesterday made an 11th-hour U-turn, conceded that some schools were not ready and shelved the plans.

But the department’s sudden change left many parents and stakeholders not only confused but fuming, with some calling for Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga to step down.

In a last-minute announcement, the department last night released a statement saying that learners would now only return to school on June 8.

It said the Council of Education Minister (CEM) met on Saturday to assess the state of readiness and most inputs showed that schools were not ready.

Among those who advised against the reopening of schools were the SA Human Rights Commission and independent auditors hired by the department to assess the state of readiness of schools across the country.

“CEM received a report from the consortium of service providers co-ordinated by the National Education Collaboration Trust on the External Evaluation and Monitoring of the state of readiness. Rand Water, as an Implementing Agent delivering water to 3500 schools, also presented its report. The Heads of Education Departments Committee also presented its technical report, the department’s statement read.

It continued: “All three reports converged on the fact that a substantial number of schools would not be ready for the reopening tomorrow, albeit tremendous progress had been made by most provinces, which overall reflected an 80% state of readiness.

“The CEM was concerned that in some provinces personal protective equipment for learners, in particular, had not been received; and some schools had not been made ready for the arrival of teachers and learners.”

Additionally, the department said the CEM took informed decisions to have schools continue to reopen today, but with school management teams, teachers and non-teaching staff only arriving to prepare for the arrival of learners.

“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.”

Prior to the announcement, the country’s big three teachers unions, the SA Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu), National Teachers Union (Natu) and National Professional Teachers Organisation of SA (Naptosa) had stuck to their guns insisting that schools should not reopen as personal protective equipment had not been delivered in some schools. The delay in announcing the changes saw some parents sending their children to boarding schools in preparations of the reopening today. In that case, Motshekga said schools whose learners have returned must start inducting them on Covid-19 safety measures. “We have, however, received reports that indicate that some learners in boarding schools have already arrived. “We urge the schools to continue with the 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 yesterday and today and it was agreed on how they should proceed regarding the reopening of their schools.” Leader of One South Africa Movement, Mmusi Maimane, announced that his party was heading to court to halt the reopening of schools by at least by two months.

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