Unions slam Motshekga's school plan: Most provinces aren't prepared

The department of basic education's directive to have Grade 7 and 12 learners return to class on 1 June has been condemned by unions.


On Wednesday night, Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga announced that, despite disruptions impacting School Management Teams, classrooms would reopen on 1 June. The announcement has divided public opinion; while some have welcomed the department's attempt to rescue the school year, others have blasted the strategy as premature and dangerous.


With the cold winter months looming and South Africa's COVID-19 caseload expected to peak in September, concerned teachers, pupils and parents remain apprehensive.

Schools rush to prepare health and safety protocols


Noting widespread anxieties, Motshekga revealed that the reopening of schools needed to follow an approach with prioritised health and safety. As such, local departments have been entrusted to ensure that classrooms are equipped with sanitisation stations and personal protective equipment (PPE).


The South African Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu) has, however, argued that most provinces are ill-prepared to welcome the return of learners and do not meet government's requirements. In conversation with Xoli Mngambi on eNCA, Sadtu General Secretary Mugwena Maluleke announced that provincial surveys painted a grim picture. Maluleke said:


"The survey tells us that seven provinces are far from being ready in terms of the ablution facilities, in terms of water. Out of the 3400 [schools], there is still about 64% of those that do not have water. Out of all the schools that responded [to the survey], 87% say they do not have ablution facilities."

Sadtu: Only two provinces ready to receive learners


Maluleke noted that only schools in the Western Cape and Gauteng were adequately prepared to receive pupils on 1 June but added that the supply of masks for learners had not been properly fulfilled. Motshekga addressed these criticisms during her briefing, noting that sanitizers and masks would be supplied closer to the time to mitigate theft of the provisions.


Sadtu added that the survey's results indicated that South Africa's education system, as a whole, would need two months to prepare for the return of learners. Maluleke reiterated that while schools in urban areas were well-resourced and, as such, able to meet the department's requirements, learning facilities in poorer areas needed more time to prepare.


In accordance with the department of basic education's directives, teachers are expected to return to schools on 25 May. Together with School Management Team, staff are expected to ready classrooms and facilities in line with the Standard Operating Procedures.