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Most education officials not at work despite Motshekga's May 4 return date

Basic education minister Angie Motshekga announced that office-based school staff would resume duty on Monday, but most department officials remain at home.
Basic education minister Angie Motshekga announced that office-based school staff would resume duty on Monday, but most department officials remain at home.
Image: Gallo Images

Most education department officials at the head office in Pretoria and at provincial education department offices have not yet returned to work. 

Basic education minister Angie Motshekga last week announced that office-based staff would resume duty on Monday this week to get the sector ready for the reopening of schools.

However, staff are anxious to know when they will be going back as only those from the top structures in the national and provincial education departments returned to work on Monday.

Director-general Mathanzima Mweli informed department staff that only he, his deputy directors-general and their “identified staff”, as well as Motshekga and deputy minister Reginah Mhaule would be returning to the office.

“All other categories of staff should remain at home until you are duly informed. By the end of the week, ending May 8, all staff will be informed of the plan to phase in the return of staff,” he said.

In a circular dated May 3 titled “postponement of reopening of offices”, the Gauteng education department’s superintendent-general Edward Mosuwe said all staff based at its head office in Johannesburg and in districts “with the exception of senior managers and essential-service workers” should not report for duty.

“It is important to ensure that our facilities are only occupied when there is some level of readiness for work to resume,” he said.

Mosuwe said the reopening of the Gauteng schooling system “needs a properly planned process, which includes the readiness of all facilities in terms of decontamination, personal protective equipment (PPE) and reorientation”.

“The new normal requires us to meticulously respond to the current situation and the challenges posed by Covid-19. We need to adapt quickly and do things differently,” he said.

Mosuwe said the process of acquiring PPE was at an advanced stage and the disinfection of all buildings “has commenced in earnest”.

The department will be putting in place measures to ensure that the working environment meets the requirements of level 4 restrictions, he said.

“Organised labour will also be consulted during the course of this week before a circular is issued detailing all protocols and the resumption of work in a phased-in approach.’’

The circular is also expected to outline working conditions that must be complied with “to ensure that we balance productivity with health and safety in all our buildings”.

A senior department official in KwaZulu-Natal, meanwhile, said they were very worried as they had not received any notification from the department about when they would be returning.

“They must not call you today and expect you to report tomorrow,” said the official.

“Clear direction should be given to office-based officials. They should be informed timeously about when they should report for duty so that they can prepare accordingly.”

The official said he was battling to understand what work principals and other members of the school's management team could do when they return on Monday if officials such as circuit managers had not yet returned to work.

“What guidance and direction would principals and other members of the school management team receive from circuit managers when they themselves have not been at work?” he asked.

The department’s proposed dates for school management staff and teachers to resume duty are May 11 and May 18 respectively, while grade 12 and 7 pupils were expected to return on June 1.