Don't rush the process of opening schools

Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga looked competent on Tuesday when she revealed that her department is ready to start re-opening schools from 1 June. At face value, her comments about supplies of needed sanitation equipment, water and personal protective equipment being ordered and sent to schools, spoke of a department up to the challenge of getting pupils back in class after the forced coronavirus holiday which will be approaching three months by the time the first classes resume. However, according to teacher unions – and they are unusually united in their position – the situation on the ground is not...
Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga looked competent on Tuesday when she revealed that her department is ready to start re-opening schools from 1 June.

At face value, her comments about supplies of needed sanitation equipment, water and personal protective equipment being ordered and sent to schools, spoke of a department up to the challenge of getting pupils back in class after the forced coronavirus holiday which will be approaching three months by the time the first classes resume.

However, according to teacher unions – and they are unusually united in their position – the situation on the ground is not nearly as rosy as Motshekga made out.

A survey of 9,365 schools across the country – completed by principals on the ground – shows that 79% of schools have not even yet received regulations on how to deal with health and safety issues. And 60% report that their circuit manager has not yet been in touch with them … while 92% of schools surveyed, said their offices had not yet been cleaned and sanitised.

The unions euphemistically call this "a problem". It is more of a national tragedy, served up by a department, and a government, which has allowed education in particular to further widen the gulf between the haves and the have-nots in this country.

The unions believe the minister is being fed incorrect information by her underlings who will all, no doubt, be angling to make themselves look good in the midst of possibly SA's biggest post-democracy crisis.

It is to be welcomed that Motshekga has appointed an independent body to audit the processes of supplying and equipping schools – possibly because she also doesn't believe her own people.

There are still so many questions about the back-to-school process, but one thing is crystal clear: it must not be rushed.

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