Anxiety over schools endures as pupils now head to classrooms on 8 June

Gauteng East Education centre getting ready for reopening. Photo; Twitter @Steve_Mabona

The Educators Union of South Africa (EUSA) will ensure the court’s rule on the way forward as they are taking Motshekga to court to interdict the reopening of schools.

The back-and-forth confusion over whether to return to school or not would only demoralise pupils and teachers and create further anxiety among them, an education activist said, as Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga backtracked yet again on making an announcement on school readiness.

Motshekga was yesterday expected to enlighten the country on school readiness for Grade 7s and matrics returning to school, but cancelled and said she would make her announcement today at 11am, three hours after pupils were expected to return.

Motshekga’s spokesperson, Elijah Mahlanga, did not respond to repeated calls asking if children were still expected to return to school today. Unions and various schools have stood up to the minister, refusing to reopen schools despite her announcement last month for academic activities to resume today.

This follows rejections by education unions for schools to resume today after Motshekga’s announcement last month. It was left to the Council of Education Ministers (CEM) to issue a statement last night to clarify that pupils would only return to school on 8 June.

“CEM took informed decisions to have schools to continue to reopen on 1 June 2020, but with school management teams, teachers and non-teaching staff only arriving to prepare for the arrival of pupils,” said Mhlanga in a statement.

Education activist Hendrick Makaneta said the minister did not know which route to take as she was backed into a corner by parents, unions and governing bodies.

“Provincial and district officials should ensure that health, safety, and social distancing requirements, are strictly adhered to when teachers arrive,” Mhlanga said.

“This coming week must be used for the proper orientation and training of teachers, the mopping and ramping of all supply chain matters, and final touches to the readiness of each facility for the arrival of learners.

“It’s clear our government isn’t ready and Covid-19 has shown deep-rooted inequality between private and public schools. “We get the sense the minister is trying to please both parties – those who want to go back and those who do not.

“This will demoralise some of the teachers and pupils who were already prepared to go back. It will also cause further anxiety in the pupils and teachers. No one knows what is happening and the stance of the department.”

But the Educators Union of South Africa (EUSA) will ensure the court’s rule on the way for ward as they are taking Motshekga to court to interdict the reopening of schools as this would lead to a “genocide”.

Unions and various schools across the country have stood up to the minister, refusing to reopen schools today despite her announcement earlier this month for academic activities to resume today.

EUSA spokesperson Kabelo Mahlobogwane said they would be challenging Motshekga before the High Court in Pretoria tomorrow morning to interdict her proposal for pupils and teachers to return to school.

Several schools across the country have not received the relevant personal protective equipment (PPE) for teachers and pupils.

Thirty-two schools and 37 school staff members have been affected by the coronavirus in the Western Cape. According to Mahlobogwane, a school principal in Tshwane had also tested positive for the virus.

“Schools should not be rushed to be opened. PPE does not prevent the virus from spreading. If you were to look at the schooling environment and interactions, [the spread] is bound to happen.

“Scanners provided don’t detect the coronavirus but only check your temperature.

“There have been numerous reports that some don’t work well and at one school the thermometer gave all teachers the same reading of 36 degrees Celsius.

“In townships, pupils walk to school in groups and interact with more than 20 people. When they get to school, they tell us to separate them, but after school, they walk back home in groups. “No one is telling them to observe social distancing or wear masks.

“There is no way schools can be opened at this stage because that would be committing genocide,” said Mahlobogwane.

The National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) on Saturday announced its support of the South African Democratic Teachers’ Union, Congress of South African Students and other unions in rejecting Motshekga’s proposal.

As a health and education union, Nehawu said it would not jeopardise the lives of workers and pupils due to the education department failing to adhere to regulations such as deep-cleaning and fumigating, procurement of PPE, establishing screening and proper testing facilities at the workplace and supplying water and sanitation.

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