PSC highlights concern over use of pit-latrines in schools

During a media briefing on Tuesday, 15 September, the Public Service Commission (PSC) commissioner Michael Seloane indicated that some schools failed to meet all the preconditions for the re-opening of schools as indicated by Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga.

Seloane tackled the implications of lockdown on schools, saying that the PSC found that information about Covid-19 was well communicated at school level and that there was a high level of awareness about the pandemic during its service delivery inspections conducted in June at selected schools.

"In the few instances where learners were not wearing masks, the schools were able to provide such.

"However, the PSC noted with serious concern that generally the supply of PPEs was not sufficient, which required urgent attention. Equally some of the equipment such as thermometers were dysfunctional as they provided wrong readings.

"To observe social distancing, the department of basic education ensured that an average of 20 learners were accommodated per class. Provision for isolation rooms were also not provided in the majority of schools."

Seloane said there was also "great" concern over the use of pit-latrines in some schools, which was "a grave health and safety risk that requires urgent attention".

"Covid-19 has created an environment where government has to work together. In this instance, the department of basic education is reliant on the local municipalities as well as the national departments of water and sanitation and public works and infrastructure to provide a conducive environment for learning in line with general health standards and Covid-19 requirements."

The commissioner continued to say that the transition from contact to home and online learning had exposed government of the apparent depth of South Africa's digital divide in the education system.

"It has had social and pedagogical implications while raising important political debates about the government's response.

"It has also thrown into stark relief the pervasive inequalities in South Africa's education system, the differentiation of public and private schools.

"This clearly demonstrates government's failure in achieving the Constitutional principle of 'services must be provided impartially, fairly, equitably and without bias'."

Seloane added that the PSC had provided feedback to the department on the improvement of conditions in anticipation of the other grades returning to schools as the Covid-19 regulations are eased.

"This is while protecting the lives of the learners and educators remain paramount."

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