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Cosas marches to private schools to close them but find them empty as they’re on holiday

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

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

Published Jul 28, 2020

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School holidays or not, the Congress of SA Students (Cosas) is forging ahead with its plans to disrupt schooling at private institutions.

President Cyril Ramaphosa left Cosas fuming with his announcement last week that public schools would be closed from Monday and were provisionally scheduled to reopen on August 24.

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Cosas has accused Ramaphosa of abandoning poor learners.

Grade 12 learners in public schools have a shorter break that ends on Friday.

Grade 7 learners would return to school on August 10.

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But most private schools were on holiday. According to the updated Independent Schools Association of Southern Africa (Isasa) calendar, the third term would start on August 24, the same day as the expected opening day for public schools. Not all public and independent schools are registered with Isasa and even those which are registered are allowed to tweak the calendar to suit their needs. Other schools are due back as late as September 5.

On Cosas's target list on Monday were the Curro Delft campus and the Divine Heritage Christian College in the Western Cape.

Member Buntu Joseph said that when they arrived at the schools there was no learning.

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“What the schools did was tell the parents not to bring the learners to school because they knew we were going to shut them down.

"The president is afraid of private schools; we are not and we will close them on his behalf,” Joseph said.

He said Cosas felt it was unfair that private schools continued while public schools were closed.

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“This is just setting public school learners up for failure. Even during the hard lockdown they had access to Zoom classes, while we don't have the resources. They have always had access to e-learning and now they are allowed to continue with classes,” he said.

Isasa executive head Lebogang Montjane said: “Our calendars are determined by us. How does the president close a calendar that he doesn't know what it looks like. It is not that the president wanted to advantage private schools, his concern is that in the system as a whole in public schools there are those that don't have the capacity to manage to run under conditions where Covid-19 numbers are increasing.

“The president has not closed school feeding schemes at public schools, pre-primary schools are also open and not all of our schools are open for in-contact learning. Most of our learners are not on campus as we comply with social distancing.

"Even if they are in session, a huge chunk is learning from home.”

Montjane said public schools that charge fees also offered online learning. “The difference is not between independent and public schools, it's between fee-paying and non-fee paying schools. Public schools that charge a fee are also online learning.

"If Cosas is concerned about inequality the focus must be between schools that charge a fee and those which don’t.

“This is the time for us as a nation to focus on what we all realise; not all schools have running water or ablution facilities. We need to focus on being able to resolve this”

He said Cosas had not contacted Isasa to discuss the closures.

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