'Schools will re-open when safety measures are put in place,' says Ramaphosa

President Cyril Ramaphosa
President Cyril Ramaphosa President Cyril Ramaphosa
Image: Esa Alexander

President Cyril Ramaphosa has assured parents that schools will not re-open until all safety measures have been put in place.

In his weekly newsletter, Ramaphosa also said that there was a need to total transparency on discussions around the preparedness of schools. Schools were expected to resume today after having closed for almost three months as the country’s coronavirus cases started rising in March. However, education minister Angie Motshekga last night abruptly postponed a media briefing where she was scheduled to give an update on whether the decision for grade 7s and 12s to re-open still remained.

Her department later sent a statement announcing that the pupils were only expected at schools next Monday. This decision sent shockwaves across board with unions decrying that they were not consulted and had no idea that the re-opening would be postponed.

“As parents, teachers, governing bodies and government, we are in agreement that no school should re-open until all the necessary precautions are in place. There needs to be transparency about the level of preparedness of each of the schools,” Ramaphosa said.

“Everyone who is a key role player, be a parent, a school governing body member, a teacher or a government official should be able to have the correct information about the state of preparedness of each school. It is our collective responsibility to ensure that the learning environment is safe.”

He said that he understood the concerns raised by parents, unions and school governing bodies around the state of preparedness. They had complained that the rushed re-opening would only favour model-c schools that have adequately ablution facilities, water and sanitisation facilities and other health measures such as personal protective equipment in place. According to the union, the previously disadvantaged schools would be a haven for the spread of Covid-19.

“Parents want reassurance that the necessary precautions should be in place to adequately protect learners. The safety of our youngest citizens from a health and physical perspective is not negotiable. It is our foremost priority.

“As we prepare for the gradual re-opening of our schools and places of higher learning, education authorities have been hard at work putting the necessary health and safety measures in place. That documentation regarding standard operating procedures have been provided to all schools. These standard operating procedures cover issues like training and orientation of screeners, timetable realignment and configuring classrooms to meet social distancing requirements,” Ramaphosa said.

He said that the government was delivering PPEs and ensuring there were water and sanitation services in place. Ramaphosa said learning would take place under strict conditions with a limited number of pupils.

“I want to salute parents and caregivers, in particular, for the role they have played over the last two months. With schools closed, they have had to take greater daily responsibility for the education and development of their children. Many parents and caregivers have had to assist learners with their schoolwork at home, no doubt gaining a keen appreciation of the hard work being done by our teachers every day.

“Once the lockdown is lifted and more learners return to school, we parents should continue to play a more active role in the education of our children, whether it is through joining school governing bodies, volunteering our services at schools or other forms of assistance. Parents can join in volunteering to clean schools, establishing vegetable gardens or being part of neighbourhood school safety committees. This can turn the schools into real, meaningful ‘community schools’.”

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