Western Cape Education Minister Debbie Schäfer says she will not stop anyone from teaching a child unless she is ordered to do so by a court.
Must say never in my life did I expect to be asked to give an undertaking not to teach children. And nogal by the human “rights” commission.
— Debbie Schafer (@DebbieSchafer) June 1, 2020
The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) has threatened to take the provincial education department to court for reopening schools this week instead of next week as per the national government’s pronouncements.
On Sunday, Basic Education postponed the national resumption of classes for grades 7 and 12 to next Monday.
In a letter to Schäfer, Human Rights Commissioner Andre Gaum calls on the Western Cape to stick to the rules set by National Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga and use this week for orientation and ‘mopping-up’ operations to ensure schools open next Monday for Grade 7 and 12 learners.
“We believe that all schools need to open at the same time and in cases where schools are not COVID-19 ready then alternative measures should be put in place so that no learner gets left behind,” says Gaum.
Schäfer has hit back, saying only a court order would compel her to suspend classes.
“The Human Rights Commission is supposed to protect human rights and one of the fundamental human rights in the Bill of Rights is the right to education. So we are providing the right to education. We’re working with the National Minister to do that. They actually asked me formally in writing to give them an undertaking this week that we will not continue with teaching at schools, even if learners come for orientation, that we will not be teaching them any work this week, which in our view is contrary to the Constitution and our mandate,” said Schäfer, while speaking during an online discussion regarding the reopening of schools in Western Cape.
Meanwhile, the South Africa First Forum has called on President Cyril Ramaphosa to intervene to solve the confusion around the return of grades 7 and 12 to school. Forum Convener, Advocate Rod Solomons, has slammed both the Basic Education Department and the provincial department, accusing them of creating more confusion.
“It is incredulous that the Minister of Education is creating so much confusion, on the opening of our schools, and then the Western Cape government comes in with their own statement creating more confusion in the Western Cape , as the South Africa First Forum – we are calling on President Ramaphosa to step in and take charge.”
It’s unclear at this stage when exactly the South African Human Rights Commission will be approaching the courts to compel the Western Cape Department of Education to stop learning at schools. Schools in the other provinces are expected to reopen on Monday.
South African schools closed late in March after government declared the COVID-19 outbreak a national state of disaster.
The Western Cape currently has the highest number of infections with 23 583 confirmed coronavirus cases and 525 deaths.
— Dr Zweli Mkhize (@DrZweliMkhize) June 2, 2020
South Africa is now under Level 3 COVID-19 lockdown as government moves to revive a sluggish economy that’s been further battered by the pandemic.