Union takes Motshekga to court for reopening schools amid virus pandemic
On Sunday, Educators Union of SA (Eusa) general secretary Siphiwe Mpungose confirmed an urgent court application would be launched against the Department of Basic Education (DBE) to halt the government’s plans to reopen schools for Grade 7 and Grade 12 from June 1.
Mpungose said Eusa have more than 27 000 members nationwide.
Motshekga, making her announcement on schools on Tuesday, said the reopening would include smaller schools of not more than 125 learners.
Schools have been closed for about two months since the announcement of the lockdown by President Cyril Ramaphosa in March.
Motshekga has been adamant since last week the DBE was ready to reopen schools safely, including the provision of personal protective equipment (PPE) to all institutions nationwide.
In an interview on Gauteng-based Talk Radio 702 on Friday, the minister cautioned against what she called “drama” regarding the reopening of schools, saying learners would be screened by trained personnel.
“We have linked every school to a clinic. If we find a child with a temperature, we will handle it the way it is handled everywhere else.
“Teachers will be teaching. We have community health workers who will be screening at the gate,” Motshekga said.
However, this was vehemently rejected by Mpungose, who said on Sunday the minister and the department were lying to the public about supplying PPEs and guaranteeing the safety of learners and teachers.
“There are stark discrepancies between what the minister and provincial MECs have said regarding the state readiness, compared to the actual information on the ground.
“We totally reject the use of teachers and learners as guinea pigs used to test against an invisible enemy.
We reject, as Eusa, the gambling with the lives of the future of our country,” Mpungose said.
“Our legal team has been busy drafting the court papers since Saturday and Sunday morning. So we expect to file the papers by (this morning).
“The matter will be filed as an urgent application. We have not spoken to the DBE because we had anticipated the arrogance of the minister and her team.
“So, we are forging ahead with the court process to protect the lives of teachers and learners,” he said.
Asked to comment on the possible interdict of schools reopening, DBE spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga said: “An interdict would normally come as an order from a court of law. Up to now there’s no such case brought against the department in court, therefore there is no interdict.”
In a lawyer’s letter sent to Motshekga on Wednesday, Eusa listed what they said were problems plaguing the education sector, which supposedly caused the alleged lack of readiness.
This included Motshekga saying last week that more than 1 500 schools were vandalised or destroyed, which Eusa said proved they wouldn’t be able to reopen safely.
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