Unions await feedback on call to re-close schools

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Teacher unions are optimistic that Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga will give them positive feedback on Wednesday night when she presents their submissions to Cabinet.

Unions have renewed calls for schools to be closed citing an increase in COVID-19 infections. They also say many Grade 12 learners have not gone to school because some schools are not ready to accommodate them, while others still don’t have personal protective equipment (PPEs).

On Friday, unions made a presentation to Motshekga and on Monday met with Deputy Minister Makgabo Reginah Mhaule and a handful of MECs.

The South African Democratic Teachers Union’s (Sadtu) Mugwena Maluleke says, “Sadtu together with other unions in education have met with the Department of Basic Education. There was an undertaking on Monday that the submission that was made by the unions shall be debated by Cabinet and thereafter the Minister will meet trade unions to give them the answer of the Cabinet.”

Unions say they are concerned about a number of issues. It appears that thousands of Grade 12 learners are not going to school because their schools could not meet the minimum requirements such as providing water and safe ablution facilities.

Debate on schools’ reopening rages on:

The National Professional Teachers’ Organisation of South Africa’s (Naptosa) Basil Manuel says, “There are too many reports about inadequate supplies, too many reports of simply no PPEs arriving and of course PPEs of the wrong quality. We take the Northern Cape; they delivered a single mask for every child instead of two, in KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape they did not have any. We haven’t seen the rest of the learners, so PPEs remains one of the biggest bugbears in the system.”

On the other hand, it has emerged that some schools are not closing and disinfecting following infections.

National Teachers Union (Natu) says many schools simply ask those who’ve tested positive for COVID-19 to isolate while they continue operating.

Natu’s Allan Thompson says, “Natu is concerned about the increasing number of schools who refuse to observe the standard operating procedures after positive lab results were reported. We have learned that principals of schools do not inform staff members when they have tested positive, they simply disappear from schools some have been reported to be in ICU without members of staff being aware. Some principals of schools only allow those who are positive to isolate themselves.”

The unions had different impressions of the meeting with the Deputy Minister and MECs on Monday and say it will only become clear on Wednesday night whether the Cabinet is in favour of their proposals.

Unions call on Angie Motshekga to prioritize the health and safety of learners: