Leader of the One South Africa Movement, Musi Maimane, is calling for teachers and learners to stay home on Friday in protest of government’s decision to reopen schools.

Maimane is taking his campaign to see school gates shut in the wake of rising COVID-19 infections to the street, having been thwarted by the courts.

Political and civil society organisations are divided on the issue of learning during this time and support for Maimane’s initiative may be limited.

“I want every child in this country to progress, but surely it cannot be at the expense of their lives. It must be that the right to life is protected for everybody that in fact, we delay the opening of schools until all the schools are safe to be able to go back to,” Maimane said.

The proposed national school stay-away ramps up Maimane’s campaign which in June failed in its bid to stop the reopening of schools under Level 3 of the lockdown in the Pretoria High Court.

In the video below, Mmusi Maimane approaches the High Court over the reopening of schools:

It may find resonance with teachers’ unions.

“We conducted a joint survey of teacher unions last week and it showed us that schools were not ready to receive more classes in terms of infrastructure and also in terms of the fact that more teachers were testing positive in our schools. We are urging our members not to expose themselves in danger. Whenever they see that the situation is not conducive to a school, that safety and health protocols are not observed in a school, they have every right not to enter into that school,” Nomusa Cembi, Communication Officer for the South Africa Democratic Teacher’s Union (Sadtu) says.

A student organisation, Cosas, which recently disrupted teaching and learning in a number of schools in the Western Cape, is likely to look favourably on Maimane’s campaign. It has said it will continue with its efforts to close down schools until the pandemic is under control.

Its views coalesce with those of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF).

“Schools have been barely able to cope since the return of Grade 7 and 12 and yet the department is pushing other grades back to school. To continue with this direction is to gamble with the lives of the children,” EFF National Spokesperson Delisile Ngwenya says.

Taking a different view is Maimane’s former party, the DA.

“I think everyone would prefer if we had the infrastructure making the learners learn from home, let the teachers stay in their homes and teach our children from there, but it is the reality in South Africa,” says DA Shadow Minister for Basic Education Nomsa Marchesi.

The Human Rights Commission echoes the DA’s sentiments, saying a stay-away will not be in the interests of learners.

“We are still keeping a close eye on things. As I say, we are continuously monitoring the situation. But we believe that it would be very prejudicial for children not to be in school, which might have a massive impact on their education in the medium and long run,” says SAHRC Commissioner Andre Guam.

Maimane’s call is not far-fetched. Just this week Kenya declared its 2020 school year lost with all schools opening again in January of 2021 because of the pandemic.

In the video below, One SA Movement calls for a national school stay-away: