After three postponements and a dramatic build-up to the delivery, Angie Motshekga's back to school proposals failed to capture the imagination of South Africans. The Department of Education wants the first cohort of learners to return to their classrooms on 1 June – but they're struggling to find support.
Surprisingly, the plans have been welcomed by some structures of the DA: The Western Cape's education authorities say they are "pleased" with the new developments. But that's as far as praise goes for the ministry, and the majority of reactions to the school blueprints have been negative.
Political reaction to the 1 June 'back to school' plans:
Mmusi Maimane launches petition against Angie Motshekga, school reopening dates
One of the most high-profile detractors is Mmusi Maimane. The former DA leader and current One South Africa activist has claimed that the decision to push for a school reopening in just 12 days was 'half-baked", and it only makes sense to send children back to the frontline by August – some three months from now.
"The announcement is a risky and dangerous gamble with the lives of our children. We fundamentally disagree with this half-baked, rushed decision. We are launching a petition to engage all South Africans over the next 11 days. It seems highly unlikely all 24 000 schools in Mzansi will be COVID-19 proof by June"
"We cannot allow our places of learning to become petri-dishes for infection. Our proposals to keep schools closed for another three months is the most sensible choice… They want to put kids and teachers at risk while they have Zoom meetings. It's hypocritical. This is a democracy and we have options."Mmusi Maimane
Bagaetsho, I am a parent, I am an uncle and I am a concerned citizen. I do no think that the @DBE_SA is ready to reopen schools.
This is rushed, this is risky.
Please join me in advocating for the reopening of schools when it’s actually safe. https://t.co/PjZ8zvhTsv— Mmusi Maimane (@MmusiMaimane) May 19, 2020
Angie Motshekga branded "impractical" for back to school plans
You've also got the African Transformation Movement putting their Parliamentary voice to good use. The party was elected to the National Assembly last year, and they haven't been afraid to agitate when they disagree with something. Their reaction to the government's back to school plans has been typically frank:
"The opening of schools exposes infrastructure limitations in public facilities. Evident gaps between private and public schools will potentially escalate the spread of COVID-19. We openly do not support any of the strategies tabled by the Department of Education; they're impractical and promise to be a recipe for disaster."ATM statement
[READ]May 19, 2020
"Screening is not sufficient"
The EFF has been muted by their own standards, but we're expecting an official statement from the party later today. However, one of their MPs registered her discontent with Motshekga's plans to screen all schoolchildren for the disease. Naledi Chirwa says these preventative measures don't go far enough.
How many times must these people be told that screening is not sufficient?— Naledi Chirwa (@NalediChirwa) May 19, 2020