Schools should close for even longer – National Teacher's Union

The National Teacher's Union (Natu) has vowed to push to keep schools closed even longer if Covid-19 cases increased around set time for reopening in August.

Natu president Alan Thompson said there would be a proposal in a meeting with Minister of Education Angie Motshekga requested for this week, for a longer schools closure should Covid-19 cases continue to rapidly rise by the time set for reopening.

"There might be an extension of the closure in a letter I have directed to the minister acknowledging the closure of schools. As a union we did indicate this possibility, should the number of cases double-up," said Thompson.

"This four-week closure was determined by high Covid-19 community transmission cases. If by 21 August, there will still be a high number of cases reported and deaths then by the 24 August, schools cannot reopen.

"They will need to be reopened based on an assessment of the trend of Covid-19, the correct time frame of the reopening will be determined by the rate of infections," he said.

Thompson, however, also said that Natu was not for indefinite closure of schools.

READ MORE: School closures lead to increase in child marriages, early pregnancies in Malawi

"This would demoralise learners and teachers. We are calling for the department to look into procuring gadgets for grade 12 that will allow remote learning to take place.

"The department of education should consider scrapping-out tender process and source the learning items directly to prohibit corruption and overpricing."

He said that the week set before matrics would be allowed at schools would put the department under pressure to "fully implement all that is needed for schools to be Covid-19 compliant".

"We still have schools in the rural areas that could not reopen although they have matric pupils because they were Covid-19 non-compliant. There were shortages of mobile toilets and the government promised to deliver the toilets. In other areas, these were delivered but taken back by service providers because they were not paid for."

Thompson claimed schools that have no running tap water reported that the water tankers were not constantly refilled, leading to some schools to close.

"We will convene an urgent meeting with the minister to look into the implementation of things. The department needs to make sure that all the schools are ready on the set dates.

"We also want the department to ensure schools are adhering to the standards of Covid-19 because many schools were not cautioning the Covid-19 confirmed cases contacts.

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"We believe that this might have contributed to the rapid rise in cases because the schools were ignorant to some of the Covid-19 standards," he said.

On Friday, DA interim leader John Steenhuisen said the DA would legally challenge the closure of schools.

"We will be approaching the courts on the basis that it is politically- rather than scientifically-motivated and not in the best interests of South Africa's 14 million schoolchildren," Steenhuisen said.

This after President Cyril Ramaphosa announced last Thursday, that schools would be closed for four weeks as the country's Covid-19 cases continued to soar.

This article first appeared on Rekord East and was republished with permission.

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