'No, we won't meet face to face, we're in lockdown,' Sadtu tells KZN education department

Sadtu told the KwaZulu-Natal education department that a request to meet contravened the president's call for a lockdown.
Sadtu told the KwaZulu-Natal education department that a request to meet contravened the president's call for a lockdown.
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Teachers' union Sadtu has accused the KwaZulu-Natal department of education of endangering workers by convening a face-to-face meeting.

Sadtu KZN secretary Nomarashiya Caluza said the department's behaviour was “shocking”. 

“We saw a message shared with us by concerned workers and members of the public wherein a meeting is convened for April 2 2020 ... We would love to be told it is a fake message,” she said.

The purpose of the meeting, held in Pietermaritzburg on Thursday according to the notice, was to assess the impact of the lockdown to help guide the MEC and head of department on a way forward.

District directors were asked to invite their curriculum co-ordinators for the FET phase.

However, Caluza said, convening a meeting, face-to-face, was tantamount to defying President Cyril Ramaphosa's directives for locking down the country and criticised the department of education for failing to lead by example.

“The president has put the country on lockdown so we fail to understand why the HOD and MEC continue with this attitude which unfortunately puts workers' lives in danger.

“There are many ways of keeping offices operational without having to hold face-to-face meetings. The employer must utilise those easily accessible communication tools like Zoom, Skype and others,” she said.

Caluza added that Sadtu was equally concerned about the impact the virus was having on education. However, she said members should not be subjected to “this form of insensitive treatment” in an effort to find solutions.

She also criticised the department for allegedly excluding the union in consultations aimed at finding ways to support pupils during the lockdown and beyond.

“There is no way that the voice of teachers would not be solicited on such critical matters that practically involve them. At a right time, Sadtu on behalf of her members will make contributions towards finding seamless solutions,” Caluza said.

Provincial department spokesperson Muzi Mahlambi confirmed that a meeting looking into catch-up programmes when schools reopen took place on Thursday.

Mahlambi said precautions to avoid contact and the possibility of transmissions were taken.

“There are 20 people in attendance in a 60-seater conference room which easily allows social distancing. Sanitisers, masks and gloves have been provided,” Mahlambi explained.

He said the meeting was necessitated by pressure for the department to respond to the questions of what plans it had beyond the lockdown.

“We regard the meeting as essential to provide leadership in this regard,” he said.